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Wine Legend: Krug 1928

7 hours 38 min ago

Why it makes the Decanter hall of fame...

Wine Legend: Krug 1928, Champagne, France

Number of bottles produced N/A

Composition 70% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay, 8% Pinot Meunier

Yield  7,000-8,000 kg/ha

Alcohol content about 12.5%

Release price N/A

Price today HK$165,000 (£15,000), Acker Merral & Condit Hong Kong, 2009

A legend because…

The quality of this wine, from an excellent vintage, was recognised early, and its reputation was aided by royal approval. As Nicholas Faith notes in The Story of Champagne: €’It remained a firm favourite with the English Royal Family even after the death of its greatest admirer, the late King George VI.’

Looking back

In 1928 the head of the house was Joseph Krug, the great-grandfather of the current director Olivier Krug. In those days there was no such thing as a chef de cave (cellar master). It was Joseph who would have been responsible for the blend, as well as for the ageing and marketing of the wine.

For Krug, the main emphasis has never been vintage Champagnes, but the patient assembling of a superlative cuvée each year, using both new wines and the stocks of reserve wines which have been held in magnums rather than tanks. Joseph Krug once remarked: ‘Krug cuvée Champagne is my baby. For vintage Champagne I have to share the credit with God.’ That has not, of course, deterred Krug from producing some of the greatest vintage Champagnes of the past century.

In the past, a kind of en primeur system operated, whereby key importers, such as Berry Bros & Rudd in London, would order and pay in advance for the wines they wished to offer their clients. This was the case in 1928. Being a vintage wine, it was not disgorged and released until 1939.

Although these wines were thus the property of the British importers, Joseph Krug astutely bought them back so as to incorporate them with the Krug stocks, which even the Germans were not shameless enough to steal. After the war, the wines were offered to the importers who had paid for them almost 20 years earlier. But fearing the wine might be too old, most asked for the 1937 instead.

‘That left us with considerable stocks of 1928,’ recalls Olivier Krug, ‘so for a while it was almost our house Champagne.’

The vintage

After a frost in May and irregular flowering, the 1928 summer was excellent. Some rain followed in September, but the harvest at the end of that month took place in ideal conditions. The vins clairs, the newly fermented base wines, were very rich, and in 1928 came from 33 different villages, of which the most important was Ambonnay.

The terroir

Given the diversity of sources for the Krug Champagnes, there is no way any single wine could be a reflection of a specific terroir. However, Krug has always worked on long-term contracts with its principal growers, and each generation of the family has always urged those growers to do their utmost to express the individuality of their particular site.

The wine

The Krugs have long maintained a distinctive style of vinification, fermenting the base wines in older barrels, and not encouraging the malolactic fermentation. In 1928, however, fermentation in oak would have been the norm throughout the region. The crucial part of the process would have been the tasting of the vins clairs and the gradual blending, which may not have been completed until February or March following the vintage. Olivier Krug estimates the dosage would have been slightly higher than it is today, at 9 to 10 grams per litre.

There were two releases of the 1928. The first was in 1939, though mostly delayed until the end of World War II, and the Krug Collection, released after 60 years of slumber in the Krug cellars. The 1928 Collection was never formally released, but wines exist with the Collection label. The blend would have been identical, but the disgorgement date would have varied.

The reaction

In 1957, Michael Broadbent noted that this was ‘the most magnificent Champagne I had ever tasted -€“ it would remain my touchstone until it finally tired (and 1961 Dom Pérignon usurped its position)’.

UK Champagne expert Tom Stevenson considers the wine legendary; but admits he believes the 1990 is even better. As with all very old wines, there will be considerable bottle variation.

Swedish Champagne expert Richard Juhlin discovered this the hard way: ‘The most famous of all Champagnes. Only tasted from a half-bottle. Incredible power, but maderised. Call me if you find a magnum!’

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The post Wine Legend: Krug 1928 appeared first on Decanter.

La Poja vertical: The rebel of Valpolicella

June 24, 2017 - 2:00am

Aldo Fiordelli takes a closer look at a real rarity; a "cru" wine produced in Valpolicella.

La Poja (top right).

La Poja is a “Chinese-box” cru on top of La Grola hill in Valpolicella, owned by the Allegrini estate.

  • Scroll down for La Poja tasting notes

Valpolicella is, of course, known for Amarone and for its distinguishable winemaking style – not for its crus. Valpolicella’s two territories can be generalised by the classic, elegant wines from Fumane and Marano to the West, and the more powerful wines from the flat eastern “step”.

Even so, it is the territory’s trademarked style of appassimento that remains the more important factor in the wine’s style.

What makes La Poja so special?

Few are the exceptions, but La Poja is certainly one of note. Planted in 1979, this was a pioneering vineyard in Valpolicella for at least four reasons.

  • It was established at a relatively higher density with 4.240 vines per hectare compared with average of 1.600 to 2.000 of that time
  • The choice of training system favoured double Guyot (instead of the omnipresent Pergola), to achieve more colour and concentration
  • The vineyard was planted only with Corvina from the “Graspo rosso” clone, rather than the field blend of the varietals; Rondinella, Molinara or Vespolina normally used for Amarone
  • Last but not least, it has never been intended to produce grapes for appassimento
Why would anyone do that in this area?

So was Giovanni Allegrini absolutely crazy? The founder of the estate certainly had a way with the land, and the intuition to match. He understood straightaway the value of La Grola’s climate and soil.

With its southeastern exposure La Poja enjoys the exceptional microclimate of Fumane, sheltered to the North by Mount Pastello and to the west by Monte Baldo, with the cooling influence of the Adige Valley and less continental influence thanks to Lake Garda.

In September, it experiences an accentuated diurnal temperature range: in 2006, one of the best vintages tasted, differences were as notable as 8°C at night from 25°C during the day.

But the most important factor remains the shallow, calcareous soil. Each guest at this vertical tasting, held at VinItaly, got a box of soil to keep.

Containing 16% of active limestone, it is low in potential alcohol yet ideal in achieving sugar concentration – once a ratio relied on to indicate the moment to pick grapes – but nowadays noted as a beneficial element in phenolic maturity.

Clearly, Allegrini didn’t need appassimento to attain richness in their wines.

The result is a full bodied red bursting with perfume, completely dry, lower in alcohol and more precise than Amarone, almost never showing a hint of volatile acidity, nor raisin or treacle notes, full of the spiciness due to the aging in new French oak barrels.

At times perhaps showing less complexity than Amarone when young, La Poja develops with an incredible suppleness improving its signature Morello cherry aroma along with spiciness and overall elegance.

La Poja wines in this tasting:

Click on the wines to see the full tasting note and stockist details.

Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2010

The youngest wine of the flight. A denser ruby color and assertive clove aroma, elegance over power due to the mild vintage which lacked excessive heat during maturation. This result is an intense, aromatic nose of cherry-liqueur, chocolate, along with a touch of Indian spice and sweet tobacco. Medium bodied…

Points 93 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2009

A typical example of Corvina with this pale ruby color (Corvina is not known for its colour) and a fresh nose of raspberry and red cherry with an amazing hint of rose hips and a very precise palate. Taut with velvety tannins, slightly rigid at the end and a gradual…

Points 91 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2008

One of the less precise wines in this flight. Deep in colour yet garnet at the rim. Evolved on the nose with aromas of leaves and dried plums. It shows complexity, however the tannins are quite rustic with a dry finish. Franco Allegrini admits: “Lacks a touch of phenolic ripeness…

Points 86 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2006

A darker profile in terms of colour and concentration. Toxicating perfume opens up to complex notes of pure liquorice, cigar box, tobacco and blackberry with a dense, mouth-filling palate, large velvety tannins and a sweet finish of dates (perhaps a bit of appassimento?) supported by long, brilliant acidity. Overall complex…

Points 96 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2005

A lesser vintage due to a lot of rain which results in a surprisingly refreshing, wiry version of La Poja with a paler ruby, brick color at the rim, red fruit aroma of raspberry and a leaner body. Crisp and chewy with grainy tannins and a slightly greenish end. Could…

Points 87 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2004

A longer growing season in this vintage gifted this wine complexity, with more focus on elegance than power. Very classic in colour (pale ruby to garnet), it shows an intense nose of dried flowers leading to Morello cherry, with depth of cacao and bay leaf - a well integrated vegetal…

Points 94 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2001

This wine is at the peak of its expressiveness with a Port-like nose of spicy minerality and an incredible supple palate due to vibrant, velvety, ripe tannins and softened – yet well-balanced – acidity. Its full bodied and rich style summarises perfectly the trend of this period. It avoids being…

Points 95 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 2000

A softer, riper vintage, without overpoweringly stewed or cooked aromas but rich and complex from cherry and chocolate to bay leaf. Creamy on the palate with ripe, almost silky tannins and a sweet finish of tobacco supported by a pleasant acidity. Best for more immediate consumption.

Points 92 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 1997

The celebrated 1997 vintage didn’t deceive with this extremely youthful wine. It shows striking complexity with raspberry and cherry fruits leading to black pepper and cacao without prolonged evolution and supported by the deep extraction of firm yet mature tannins. On the palate, it could lack the use of older…

Points 95 Allegrini, La Poja, Veneto, Italy, 1995

One of the most classic examples, an almost “old fashioned” style of Corvina with a complex dark nose of meat, wild fruits, cedar wood and bitter chocolate. A leaner body and taut firm structure with the acidity. A bit nervy, however it is balanced by a good concentration of fruit…

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Clos Rougeard sold to French billionaire Bouygues brothers

June 23, 2017 - 5:56am

Cult estate in the Loire, Clos Rougeard, has been sold to the Bouygues brothers, regulars on the France rich-list and current owners of Château Montrose in Bordeaux.

Clos Rougeard is one of the Loire's best known names.

After months of rumours, the purchase of Loire legend Clos Rougeard by billionaire brothers Martin and Olivier Bouygues was officially confirmed today (23 June).

No fee was disclosed and the deal is likely to be a hot topic of conversation in the region.

Eight generations of the Foucault family built up this property in Saumur-Champigny to the under-the-radar powerhouse that it is today. It was first created in 1664.

Its Cabernet Franc wines are among the most sought after in the world and yet whose owners Charly and Nady Foucault routinely shunned any publicity.

The news comes 18 months after Charly Foucault died, leaving Nady in charge. Sale rumours first emerged around Clos Rougeard last year, but nothing was ever confirmed.

‘This property has become an emblem of the Saumur region thanks to the exceptional work of Charly and Nady Foucault. It produces one of the greatest Cabernet Franc wines in the world,’ said the press release announcing the deal.

No chemicals have ever been used on the property, and the vines are farmed biodynamically.

Popstar Pink! is among those who have been lucky enough to visit the estate. She ended up having dinner with Charly Foucault, she said in a recent interview.

Martin and Olivier Bouygues, who created their €2.3 billion fortune initially in telecoms and property, are also co-owners of Château Montrose in St-Estèphe, Bordeaux. has contacted their representatives for comment.

Editing by Chris Mercer

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Portugal wine quiz – Test your knowledge

June 23, 2017 - 5:21am

Portugal has long been known for its famed fortified wine, Port. Yet it is so much more. Light, expressive whites, long lived reds and plenty of styles to explore and enjoy. How much do you know about Portuguese wine?

Credit: Wine Tourism in Portugal

Are you knowledgeable about all things Portuguese or is it all about Port for you? Let’s see how you do in the Portuguese wine quiz.

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Great value Champagne made by growers – panel tasting results

June 23, 2017 - 3:46am

Step outside of the usual brands and see some of the great things Champagne growers are doing on their own. Our experts praised these non-vintage grower Champagnes for their individuality and value in the July 2017 issue of Decanter magazine.

Decanter’s experts tasted non-vintage grower Champagne in the extra brut and brut categories in the July 2017 issue of Decanter magazine, and the results were impressive, with the top four wines all priced at under £40.

Diversity of style and sheer strength of character made for a challenging tasting, yet there was real value and interest.

The scores:

100 wines tasted

Exceptional – 1
Outstanding – 3
Highly Recommended – 27
Recommended – 60
Commended – 7
Fair – 2
Poor – 0
Faulty – 0

The judges:

Michael Edwards; Simon Field MW; Tim Hall

Click here to view the tasting notes and scores for all 100 grower Champagnes

Pierre Peters, Lahaye, Larmandier-Bernier and Geoffroy might not be names on the tip of our tongues in the UK, yet these growers are seen on the wine lists of some of the hippest places in New York.

But while it’s currently fashionable to embrace grower Champagne, it’s a fallacy to say that it’s intrinsically better than négociant Champagne.

Historically, most Champagnes have been made by négociant houses, who purchase most of their grapes from growers. It’s arguably the houses that retain the upper hand when it comes to consistency of quality, as the spectrum of grower-producers in Champagne is so diverse.

Overall the panel found the tasting quite hard work, but at the end they came up with some real winners.

Continue reading below Our panel’s top non vintage grower Champagne: Pierre Bertrand, 1er Cru, Champagne, France

ME: Green-gold, this has power and definition, with length and potential....

Points 98 André Jacquart, Expérience Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru

ME: Bright yellow-gold. Fine Chardonnay maturing well. Excellent harmony & vinosity. SF: Persuasive mousse and very attractive aromatics of summer...

Points 95 Larmandier-Bernier, Longitude Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru Extra

ME: Lovely classy green-gold colour shouts Chardonnay. Minerals, chalk, a hint of spices, and fine, fine tension in the mouth. Moreish...

Points 95 Nicolas Maillart, Platine, Champagne, France

ME: Opulent and finessed. SF: Fulsome colour and temperamentally big-boned , this is an impressive example. The six grams of residual sugar finely knit into a...

Points 95 Guy Larmandier, Cramant Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne

A powerful example, with almost a tannic grip and hints of gunpowder and incense. Feels drier than most, perhaps due to a...

Points 94 André Jacquart, Expérience Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru

Youthful, energetic nose with orchard fruit and hints of zesty mandarin, while the palate showcases a citric immediacy. Stylish and...

Points 93 To read Decanter’s full Panel Tasting reports, subscribe to Decanter magazine – available in print and digital. Diversity

Some of these growers have produced their own champagnes since the early 20th century, or even the late 19th, and it’s this diversity that makes grower champagne so fascinating: they demonstrate an unprecedented variety of style, offering us a much wider array of expressions than were available even just a couple of decades ago.

Despite remaining in the minority in terms of market share, these growers have had a significant impact on the way that wine consumers approach champagne.

The top four wines in the tasting were all very good, with one rated Exceptional. Michael Edwards found this totally justified, as ‘some of the grower champagnes have the greatest terroirs’.

A lack of freshness

But the panel found too many wines lacking freshness. Field commented that ‘there’s a paradox in what we tasted. We were getting wines that only had the bare minimum ageing and yet were missing that autolytic charm – a yeasty character that only Champagne has’.

Low dosage categories

When comparing the brut and the low dosage categories the panel had mixed views, finding the latter to struggle for consistency due to the region’s marginal climatic conditions.

Some caveats notwithstanding, Edwards found the brut natures more controlled, without the rasping acidity which marked some zero dosages: ‘I think it’s a new avenue. A lot of people, especially experts, feel that in the past there has been too much masking of the fruit, but I think this is the way winemaking is going in Champagne’.


‘This was a real helter-skelter result but the tasting met my expectations,’ Field concluded. ‘I was expecting a lot of variety, a lot of different characteristics, and a lot of experimentation, some of which isn’t going to work, obviously. But it’s a positive thing that these champagnes don’t all taste the same, as in this way they stand apart from the grandes marques.’

Edited for by James Button.

This copy originally appeared in Decanter magazine’s July 2017 issue. Subscribe to the magazine here Related content: 10 top grower Champagnes to try

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UK heatwave sends Provence rosé sales soaring

June 23, 2017 - 1:09am

Supermarkets and wine merchants have seen a strong increase in rosé sales in the UK during a heatwave that culminated in the hottest day for 40 years.

Rosé sales have soared over the hot weather.UK heatwave sends Provence rosé sales soaring

June 21st was the hottest day in the UK since 1976, with temperatures reaching 34°C celsius in some parts of the country. Other countries have also experienced a spate of hot weather, from France to the south-west US.

In the UK, has discovered that a week of high temperatures and sunshine lead to a surge in sales of rosé wines, and particularly rosé from Provence.

Asda reported an increase in rosé sales of over 26% compared to the same week last year; it saw a 170% rise in French rosé sales and also 250% in Australian rosé.

Waitrose told that sales of rosé were also up strongly, and Tesco reported that rosé sales were up 20% compared to the same week last year.

At Majestic, rosé sales are up 16% year to date since April 2017.

Provence rosé was doing especially well, with sales up 29% at the wine retailer.

‘Provence is flying – which, given Majestic’s already strong market share, is big,’ said Jack Merryless, spokesperson for Majestic.

Lea & Sandeman had also seen a surge in rosé sales; the MiP* Provence rosé was up 14.1% from 1st to 22nd June, compared to the same time last year.

Lea & Sandeman also told that there was a 4.9% increase in larger format bottles of the MiP, including magnums and jeroboams, compared to last year.

‘It’s not an entirely scientific diagnosis, but one bottle of MiP* amongst friends is just never enough in a heatwave, and a magnum seems easier to carry than two bottles,’ said Edward Hayward-Broomfield, E-commerce & digital marketing manager for Lea & Sandeman.

Sales of Champagne were up 11.3% at Lea & Sandeman, compared to June last year.

Data from Vinexpo and IWSR predict that rosé will continue to grow its share in global still wine consumption, increasing by 5.9% by 2020.

The popularity of rosé in the summer has launched products like rosé flavoured gummy bears, lollipops and ‘frosé’ cocktails.

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Santa Cruz Mountains producers to know

June 22, 2017 - 12:00pm

William Kelley picks the names to look out for...

Rhys Vineyards, Santa Cruz MountainsSanta Cruz Mountains producers to know

Santa Cruz Mountains at a glance

Established: 1981
Location The appellation encompasses approximately 194,250ha of the California coast south of San Francisco, running from Woodside in the north to Watsonville in the south and including only land above the fog line.
Planted area 526ha
Most-planted varieties About 25% each Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Soils Rocky, well-drained and geologically complex

Map: Maggie Nelson/Decanter

Rhys Vineyards

Bitten by the Burgundy bug, software entrepreneur Kevin Harvey planted vines in his Woodside backyard in 1995. Before long he had founded Rhys Vineyards, which soon emerged as the source of some of California’s most interesting Pinot Noirs. Harvey and Rhys winemaker Jeff Brinkman spare no expense to farm five extreme hillside sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains, planted at high density with an exciting variety of vine material. The wines are some of California’s most Burgundian in style and character.

Thomas Fogarty

Established in the 1970s by Dr Thomas Fogarty, a heart surgeon and medical inventor, this winery farms eight estate vineyards – in total some 10.5ha – in the cool northern Skyline sub-region of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Recent vintages from winemaker Nathan Kandler emphasise nuances of geology and climate: it’s the more restrained ripeness and more moderate oak influence that set these bottlings apart from the wines of yesteryear.

Thomas Fogarty


Dynamic duo Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts work with three sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains for their Sonoma County-based Arnot-Roberts label, the source of some of California’s most interesting small-lot wines. Attaining ripeness at moderate sugars and retaining vibrant acidity are priorities. Their Peter Martin Ray Vineyard Pinot Noir hails from a site that’s still owned and farmed by the legendary Martin Ray’s son: an interesting connection between the Santa Cruz Mountains’ past and future.

Arnot Roberts

Domaine Eden

Born when Mount Eden Vineyards acquired a neighbouring property in 2007. Today, winemaker and proprietor Jeffrey Patterson supplements Domaine Eden’s own Cabernet Sauvignon plantings with grapes purchased from the region’s best growers, and sometimes with wine that doesn’t meet the exacting standards to go into Mount Eden. The wines share the classical aesthetic of Mount Eden Vineyards, with refreshing acidity, moderate alcohol and fine structuring tannins, but their window of drinkability begins a little earlier.


Ceritas is another Sonoma-based winery with a passion for Santa Cruz Mountains fruit. Winemaker John Raytek (who formerly worked at Arnot-Roberts) and his partner Phoebe Bass produce a range of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from cool-climate sites, three of them being located here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, emphasising elegant tannins and pure fruit in an almost minimalist style.

Kutch Jamie

Kutch has built a reputation as a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir specialist, but his greatest wine might just be his new Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay. A blend of grapes from two sites, the Zayante and Trout Gulch vineyards, Kutch’s debut vintage bears a strong stylistic kinship with contemporary white Burgundy: taut, mineral and framed by a lick of reduction. A bottling to watch.

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Vionta – The Freixenet family’s Galician adventure

June 22, 2017 - 8:39am

Promotional feature

The view from the terrace at Vionta is so lovely it’s hard to imagine anyone gets any work done. Far better to stand and gaze out across the valley of vineyards which stretches out down the slope in front of the winery. The light catches the glint of the river that once powered the water mill (this is the land of water mills, as well as vines). In the distance is the Atlantic, blue sea meeting blue sky.

Promotional feature

Vionta – The Freixenet family’s Galician adventure

It’s a sight to make the mouth water. That’s because Rías Baixas is not just about the Albariño grape. It’s also about the fish and shellfish that also come from these parts. Mussels grow on the thousands of pontoons in the low inlets (or ‘Rías Baixas’) from the sea. Every local will order the delicacy of percebes or goose neck barnacles, and then follow on with clams, spider crabs, lobsters and plenty more besides .

It’s no wonder that the Ferrer family chose Rías Baixas for their first-ever investment away from the vineyards of Catalunya. The chill of the Atlantic, the gentle inlets, the rolling hills, the broad, open skies, the gastronomy and the centuries of Celtic influence have a special charm. What’s more in the climate and soils of Rías Baixas Albariño has found its home, a white wine that has made a reputation for Spains’ white wines internationally.

The vineyard and the grower

Rías Baixas is a land of small holdings or minifundias. Just over 5,500 growers together farm just over 4,000 ha, separated into no fewer than 21,825 parcels. Each grower owns on average just 0.19 ha*, often in separate parcels, divided by inheritance. Most have longterm relationships with wineries. Manolo is one of Vionta’s long- standing growers and lives in a house, parts of which date back to 1590. Visitors quckly learn that Rías Baixas abounds in history.

In his garden in Ribadumia Manolo grows lemons, figs, apples, pears, potatoes, cabbages and grelos (turnip tops). At the end of the garden is the vineyard. He grows his Albariño is grown on the traditional parral, or raised canopy or pergola. Until recently the canopy posts were made from the local granite. However tractors and granite don’t mix, so it’s more usual if less romantic to find a metal framework for the vines. Nowadays many people are plantings vines on cordons, as the work in the vineyard can be more mechanised, and the fruit can be exposed for ripening where necessary.

Manolo likes the parral. The leaves at the top protect the fruit when it rains, but underneath the breezes can still blow through, lessening the chances of mildew. In July he removes some upper leaves to bring in light, and does a green harvest to remove ‘los nietos’, the less promising ‘grandchildren’. Manolo points out that the vines become lazy in the fertile soil, so every year he cuts through the top layer of roots that surround the vines by hand in order to encourage sturdy downward growth.

Today’s canopies are taller than they used to be (1.8m rather than 1m), and the vines themselves are spaced 4.5mx4.5m. The tractors are specially small to fit in neatly between the vines and the small vineyard parcels. They buzz up and down the country lanes between the school buses, cars, and lycra clad cyclists, giving a picture book feel.

Visits by appointment. Contact

Adolfo Heredia, Winemaker

Winemaker Adolfo Heredia joined Vionta with the Ferrer family’s first harvest in 1996. 22 years later he is still fascinated by the variety and its potential:

‘What I find so interesting about working with Albariño is the range of different methods you can use to draw out different profiles. For instance: cold maceration before fermentation; leaving the wine on its lees which develops richness and texture in the mouth]; malolactic fermentation (or not); different fermentation temperatures, different yeasts and so on.’

‘The hardest to achieve is the malolactic fermentation [or conversion], in the years when we can achieve it. The lactic bacteria which convert the crisp malic acid to a mouth feel that is smoother and creamier really struggle to work in the typically high acid, low pH environment of Albariño.’

‘Finally of course, we have to contend with the rainy climate, which encourages diseases like mildew.’

Tasting notes Vionta

Vionta is named after one of the islands that cluster just off shore. The wine has all the stone fruit typicity of Albariño, but with an additional mineral freshness, and a complex texture indicating the 4-6 months its spends on lees. On the nose there is a waxy aroma with notes of peach conserve and cinnamon. This is a wine that speaks of granite in the vineyard and salt wind from the sea. In 2015, Vionta was voted best wine at Rías Baixas’ annual Albariño festival.
Available in Ocado in the UK.

Agnus Dei, Val do Salnés

Agnus Dei refers to the arrival of the Ferrer family in Rías Baixas, as it was the name of the original bodega where Vionta began. It has a golden cling peach ripeness, but with a lively tang of acidity to counterbalance. This green apple character is typical of the Salnés subzone. To add complexity, a small amount of the previous year’s wine is sometimes blended in.

You & Me

Rías Baixas is bursting with energy, with floral, and fresh herb aromas, and a birght crispness on the palate. Its ripe fruit charm comes from fruit from the Condado zone of Rías Baixas.

The post Vionta – The Freixenet family’s Galician adventure appeared first on Decanter.

Alternative Australia

June 22, 2017 - 8:31am

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If you think Australia is only about Chardonnay, Cabernet and Shiraz, then think again. From Assyrtiko to Zweigelt, Australia is bursting with new arrivals and lesser known grape varieties, which are grabbing the attention of critics, sommeliers and wine drinkers around the world.

Chalmers Heathcote

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Alternative Australia

The rise of alternative grape varieties hasn’t happened overnight. Nostalgic for a taste of home, the Italian settlers in Victoria’s King Valley planted Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Arneis in the 1950s. Today, Italian varieties lead the charge thanks to Bruce and Jenni Chalmers – co-founders of the Australian Alternative Variety Wine Show – who had planted over 70 different Italian varieties by the year 2000.

The last two decades have seen a surge in interest and in plantings of new and emerging varieties. Alternative varieties currently account for around 3% of Australia’s vineyard area – a small but exciting percentage. There is no doubt promise of more to come as these wines are starting to infiltrate restaurant wine lists and pop up on independent retailers’ shelves.

Without laws restricting what can be planted and where, Australia has become a hotbed of innovation and experimentation. Aussie winemakers are curious and willing to challenge convention, keen to try new things and discover how different varieties express themselves in Australia’s distinct terroir.

Grapes from Italy, Iberia, Georgia, Greece, Germany, Austria and France make up the majority of the 100+ alternative varieties now planted in Australia. The list is still growing; Australia’s first Assyrtiko was recently planted in the Clare Valley, as well as Picpoul in the McLaren Vale. Other new kids on the block to watch out for include Georgia’s Saperavi, which is making its home in the high altitude cool vineyards of the Granite Belt and King Valley, and Spain’s Mencia, which is being trialled in the McLaren Vale.

Sourcing grapes so widely makes perfect sense when Australian wine regions’ climatic diversity spans northern France to north Africa. Less thirsty, drought-resistant alternative grapes that better retain acidity, such as from Southern Italy and Iberia, thrive in warmer, drier regions like McLaren Vale and Riverland. A good example is Sicily’s Nero d’Avola, which needs under half the irrigation water of Chardonnay or Shiraz. In Adelaide Hills’ cooler climes, Hahndorf Hill has pioneered Austria’s aromatic grapes Grüner Veltliner, Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt.

Australia’s emerging varieties express the essence of the grape together with the country’s sunlight intensity, ancient soils and winemaking innovation and flair. Tending towards medium-bodied wines with food-friendly texture, acid and tannin structures, these varietal newcomers look set to leave their mark on Australia’s viticultural landscape and bring something very desirable to the world stage.

McLaren Vale

10 top alternative Australian grapes

White grapes 

Arneis – from Piedmont, north Italy; a continental/cool climate is key to subtlety and freshness; performs well in King Valley, Adelaide Hills and Tasmania. Crisp, dry, unoaked whites with a riff of fennel, crunchy naschi pear and firm, citrine/mineral, acidity. N

Fiano – born of a Mediterranean climate, this Campanian white flourishes in Australia’s warm, dry regions, particularly the McLaren Vale.  Sweet citrus (mandarin, candied lemon) and fleshier fruit with harmonious but persistent acidity. Lees ageing and sensitive oak produces texture and layer.

Grüner Veltliner – in Canberra District,  the Adelaide Hills and Tasmania, the star of Austria’s Wachau region finds the cooler conditions which drive its complex aromatics and structured palate. Expect white pepper-laced pear, grapefruit and lightly vegetal aromas and flavours, well supported by firm, mineral acidity.

Vermentino – thrives in Sardinia, southern France and those Australian regions with a dry, warm Mediterranean climate. Unoaked dry whites range from simple, crisp styles (green apple, citrus) to nuanced, textural, saline wines with spicy (citrus) pith. Bottle age brings subtle nuttiness.

Red grapes

Aglianico – the ‘Barolo of the south’ thrives at altitude in Southern Italy’s elevated Basilicata and Campania regions and Fighting Gully Road’s Alpine Valley vineyard (560m); it is also well adapted to warmer, drier Australian regions. Barrel-aged reds showcase Australia’s fruit intensity without sacrificing Aglianico’s renowned tannin and acid structure or savouriness (black olive/ leather) and perfume (floral/incense spice/orange peel).

Nebbiolo – Barolo’s iconic grape is much fussier about soil and climate than Aglianico. Pockets of the King Valley, Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley, Heathcote and Beechworth make it sing. Its signature tune? Dried roses and tar, with a firm underpinning of acidity and, in Australia, slow burn broad or lacy tannins, often with a spicy accent (liquorice, incense spice). Fresh acidity places wines at the drier end of the spectrum. Aglianico seems opulent in comparison.

Nero d’Avola – this camel of grapes – Sicily’s most planted red – is popular throughout Australia’s warm, dry regions. Medium-bodied reds with joyous jube and floral lift. Predominantly fruit-driven with sweet blueberry and raspberry, rhubarb and lick of dried herbs. Brighter than many Italian examples.

Sangiovese – widely planted in Italy, Tuscany’s most famous grape is pickier in Australia. Vine age and superior clonal material distinguish top examples from diverse regions, including McLaren Vale, King Valley, Heathcote and Canberra District. Australian examples capture the medium-bodied savoury palate of classic Italian wines, with fresh acidity, firm but fine tea leaf tannins, sour red cherry and plum.

Tempranillo – Spain’s most planted red grape has been embraced across Australia too (but especially McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully and Geographe), resulting in a similar stylistic range. ‘Joven’ fresh and fruity styles feature smooth tannins with bright, fleshy plum and berry fruit. Structured wines from continental or cooler regions (e.g. Pyrenees, Beechworth, Canberra District) are perfumed with polished tannins, supple berry and cherry fruit and a hint of sarsaparilla.

Touriga Nacional – like Portugal, found in Australia’s warmer, drier regions, notably McLaren Vale, Barossa and Rutherglen. Even a dash in a blend reveals its tell-tale violet, rose and bergamot scent; powerful, supple fruit (red and black), with chocolatey tannins.

Wine Australia is running an Alternative Varieties Trade Tasting on Wednesday 28 June at Australia House in London. The tasting will feature over 120 wines from 50 producers including Alpha Box & Dice, Chalmers, d’Arenberg, Dal Zotto, Larry Cherubino and Lethbridge. Guests can explore Mediterranean varieties such as Arneis, Friulano, Dolcetto and Tempranillo as well as more unusual varieties like Assyrtiko, Sagrantino, Taminga and Teroldego. The line-up will also include Saperavi, a rare Georgian variety made by less than 20 Australian producers.

Please note this tasting is only for the drinks trade and media. Registration is here:


The post Alternative Australia appeared first on Decanter.

Updated: Tasting notes decoded

June 22, 2017 - 6:02am

Get to grips with the some of the more obscure tasting notes used by wine experts, with graphics from the Decanter design team. This week we decode 'brioche' and 'cherry'...

Wait, did someone dip brioche in my wine?How to understand tasting notes: The latest… Brioche

The butter-rich brioche bun is the staple of many a French breakfast table, perfect with apricot jam and a grand café noir. For anyone who hasn’t experienced its

No added brioche.

simple delights, the brioche is essentially a yeast bread enriched with butter and eggs, sometimes with more sweetness if made with cream and sugar.

As a tasting note, brioche has three main components: rounded butter and yeast flavours, piqued by pastry sweetness. It’s categorised alongside other non-fruity sweet notes like honey or vanilla, and it’s commonly accompanied by adjectives like buttery, creamy, toasty and yeasty.

‘Warm brioche’ is also a term used, though it has relation a wine’s temperature. It refers to the heightened aromas of a heated pastry.

A yeasty brioche effect can be brought about by sur lie; ’resting’ the wine on its dead yeast cells known as lees, or bâtonnage (stirring the lees). During prolonged contact with the lees, autolysis occurs — when the yeast cells are broken down by enzymes, releasing macromolecules that impart biscuit, toast or brioche flavours. These processes are mostly associated with sparkling wines, including those of Champagne, Cava and the United Kingdom.

You can also find this in some aged Chardonnay or Sémillon wines.

SEE: Recaredo, Turó d’en Mota, Cava, Mainland Spain, Spain, 2002 | Krug, Grande Cuvée, Champagne, France NV | Wiston Estate, Blanc de Blancs, East Sussex, Brut 2010
SEE: Vasse Felix, Heytesbury, Margaret River, 2011 |Tempus Two, Copper Zenith Semillon, Hunter Valley 2007



Cherries have a distinctive fruit character, often replicated artificially for confectionery and liqueurs. When it comes to wine tasting notes, it’s important to distinguish between different cherry forms and flavours. For starters, there are both sweet and sour cherries — think of the difference between maraschino and morello cherries.

Red cherries are seen as part of the red fruit flavour profile, and black cherries are included in the black fruit category. In both of these, cherries might be seen as not so sweet or tart as the berries, yet more concentrated than fleshy plums, for example.

In Decanter’s How to read wine tasting notes, the general character of cherry is defined as, ‘firm, vibrant fruit with a touch of acidity and none of the sweetness of, say, blackcurrants’.

Wines that can carry notes of tart cherries include northern Italian reds, such Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbaresco wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. Red cherry notes can be found in some Tuscan Sangiovese wines from Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti.

SEE: Giovanni Rosso, Barolo, La Serra, Piedmont, Italy, 2010 | Pio Cesare, Barbaresco, Piedmont 2013 | Bottega, Il Vino dei Poeti, Brunello di Montalcino 2010 | Monteraponi, Chianti Classico, Tuscany 2014

Young Pinot Noir wines can encompass a range of cherry flavours from red to black, particularly those of New Zealand, where some of the best examples combine cherry with hints of jam or strawberry to offset earthy notes.

SEE: Best New Zealand Pinot Noir under £20

Perhaps the wine most associated with cherries is Beaujolais, a red wine made from the Gamay grape. Cherry notes in these wines are usually the product of carbonic maceration, a process in which whole grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with carbon dioxide prior to regular fermentation. This helps to preserve the naturally juicy and fruity character of Gamay.

SEE: Domaine Georges Descombes, Morgon, Beaujolais 2015 | Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes, Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais 2015

As you’re probably aware pineapple is a tropical fruit, with sweet and juicy pungent flesh. It’s this sweet pungency that’s reflected in some wine aromas, though no actual pineapple is present. There is such a thing as wine made from pineapples instead of grapes, but we won’t get into that here.

As a tasting note, pineapple is aligned with other sweet-smelling exotic fruits like melon, banana, guava, mango and passionfruit. Its flavour profile is sweeter than the citrus fruits, but it has a freshness that distinguishes it from stone fruits, such as apricots and peaches.

You can find pineapple notes ripe white wines, such as a Riesling like Tongue in Groove Waipara Valley, New Zealand 2013. Or you might find it in more traditional late-harvest examples, especially from cool regions like Mosel in Germany. It’s generally ascribed to the influences of Botrytis Cinerea, or Noble Rot.

As a thin-skinned grape, Riesling is particularly susceptible to Noble Rot — a fungus that pierces the skin of grapes and lowers the water content, whilst maintaining sugar levels. Botrytis is able to invoke fruity notes because of chemical compounds like fureanol, which is also found in very ripe pineapples. Look for its pineapple influence in sweet wines from Sauternes too, such as Château Suduiraut 2013.

Some oaky and ripe New World Chardonnays may also exude aromas of pineapple, as they tend to have a more exotic fruit profile, along with hints of sweet spices and a higher alcohol content. Typical examples are Californian Chardonnays, such as Fess Parker, Ashley’s Chardonnay, Santa Barbara 2014 and Y Rousseau, Milady Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2012.





First things first, it’s important not to confuse the flavour profile of coconuts with nuts. Coconuts are not nuts, they are drupes (stone fruits). Their distinctive flavour and aroma is distinct from either fruits or nuts, and can be found in products like coconut milk or oil, as well as the desiccated coconut you might have eaten in a Bounty bar.

In wine, coconut generally manifests itself on the nose as a kind of dulled sweetness, which doesn’t pique the senses in the same way as sweet fruit or honey flavours. Instead it is more heavily aromatic, which is why it’s categorised among the ‘kernals’ such as almond, coffee and chocolate.

Notes of coconut can come from esters, which are the chemical compounds behind many aromas. Specifically lactones, which are responsible for the peculiar sweet aromas associated with coconuts. Beverley Blanning MW goes one step further in her exploration of oak aromas: ‘beta-methyl-gamma-octa-lactone – that’s coconut aroma to you and me’.

Coconut is one of the key aromas that distinguishes oaked wines, and it’s usually counted as a tertiary aroma because it’s related to the ageing process. Oak flavours can come from contact with wood chips, staves or barrels. Coconut is strongly evoked by American oak, along with vanilla notes.

Wines with coconut notes can include oaky red Riojas with some years behind them, like La Rioja Alta, 904 Gran Reserva 2007 and Bodegas Muriel, Reserva 2008. As well as big Cabernet-dominated Australian reds like Wolf Blass’ Black Label wines, aged for many months in American Oak.

SEE: Wolf Blass, Black Label 1979 | Wolf Blass, Black Label 1974 | Wolf Blass Wines, Black Label 1992






As a tasting note, cassis refers to ripe and concentrated blackcurrant flavours or aromas. It’s often used to describe rich and full-bodied red wines, such as mature Bordeaux wines, or those made from earthy southern Italian varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Aglianico and Primitivo.

The blackcurrant flavour profile belongs to a broader ‘black fruit’ category. Within that category, it’s more aligned with the tartness of blueberries, and not with the sweetness of dark plum and blackberry flavours.

The term can cover different forms of intense blackcurrant fruit flavours, from a large helping of blackcurrant jam, to a handful of the fresh berries.

The tasting term is not to be confused with the wine region of Cassis in Provence, which is renowned for rosé wines that generally express red fruit rather than black fruit notes, and white wines of a mineral and citrus character.

To fully comprehend the flavour, why not try the blackcurrant liqueur crème de cassis. This also goes well in a ‘Kir Royale’ cocktail — made by pouring a small measure into a flute and topping up with Champagne.


As a tasting note, citrus is defined by high acidity and fresh fruit flavour; characteristics that can be found in many white wines.

Although wine may not reach the acidity level of, say, lemonade, it can have a strong acidic structure that recalls sharpness of fresh lemon, lime or grapefruit on the nose and palate.

It may also be found alongside notes like ‘mineral’ or ‘steely’, because certain high acidity wines can feel almost hard-edged in the mouth, lacking in sweet fruit flavours. Accompanying notes of more sour fruits, like green apples or pears, are relatively common.

In wine, citrus is categorised as a primary aroma, because it relates to the flavour of the grapes themselves as opposed to winemaking or ageing processes.

Examples of citrussy wines can include young dry whites like Vermentino, Verdejo, Albariño and Sauvignon Blanc.

SEE: Uvaggio, Vermentino, Lodi, California 2013 | Beronia, Verdejo, Rueda, Spain 2016 | Eidosela, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia, 2011 | Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2016 | Domaine Guyot, Les Loges, Pouilly-Fumé, Loire 2015

Note: citrus can sometimes be detected as citrus peel or zest, which might suggest a more pithy and intensely aromatic character than citrus juices. This is because the pungent odour of citrus fruits comes from the chemical compound limonene, which is located in the peel.

Cooked Fruit

A ‘cooked wine’ can be considered a fault. It can refer to a bottle that has been exposed to extreme heat. This can occur during shipping and is evident to the consumer as the cork can protrude and the wine quality will be greatly diminished.

However, when a person refers to ‘cooked fruit’ when tasting, this means that the grapes have had too much hang-time on the vine or too much sun exposure and are in fact overripe or even sunburned. This leads to a wine that has lower total acidity, which will make it taste less fresh; it will usually have jammy characters. This jamminess can be coupled with a higher level of alcohol, which can create a flabby mouthfeel.






The term jammy is usually applied to red wines low in acidity but high in alcohol, such as Californian Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz. It describes ripened or cooked fruit, in which the pungency and sweetness is intensified compared to fresh fruit flavours.

Jammy is associated with red fruits like strawberries and raspberries, as well as darker fruits such as blackcurrants and blackberries — essentially fruits you can imagine making into jam.

As a fault, it can express poor growing conditions in which the vines are overexposed to heat and sunlight. This causes the grapes to ripen too quickly, and the resultant wines can develop a cloying jamminess with a flabby mouthfeel.

Wine writer Robert Haynes-Peterson notes that Pinot Noir wines are most at risk, as these thin-skinned grapes are ‘intolerant of high temperatures which results in jammy, rather than fruit-driven, wines’. Read more

However, some people see jamminess as adding an enjoyably complex and concentrated fruitiness to wines; Matetic’s EQ Syrah from the San Antonio Valley was praised by Decanter’s James Button for its ‘multi-layered jammy and savoury elements’.


Strawberry falls into the red fruit flavour category, along with notes like raspberry, cherry and jam. It can be experienced as an flavour, but is most commonly identified as a wine aroma. It’s created by the fragrant organic compound called ethly methylphenylglycidate, also known as an ester.

Strawberry notes can usually be found in light reds such as Californian Zinfandel wines, and New Zealand Pinot Noirs. As well as among the complex aromas of more tannic wines made from the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo varietals.

Strawberry aromas are also expressed by rosé wines, such as Domaine Delaporte’s rosé from Sancerre and Famille Negrel’s La Petite Reine rosé from Bandol. Or even in sparkling rosé wines, such as The Wine Society’s Champagne Rosé and Exton Park’s Pinot Meunier.

The nature of the strawberry aroma can range from an attractive berry freshness, to an unpleasant cloying fruitiness. For example, sommelier Laure Patry praises Erath Vineyards’ Oregon Pinot Noir 2012 for its ‘bright and fresh with ripe strawberry aromas’. But it can be distasteful if over-pronounced, in these instances it might be paired with words like ‘cooked’ or ‘stewed’.

Benjamin Lewin MW claims the ‘strawberry notes of Pinot Noir’ are ‘released or created by yeast during fermentation’, and he argues that different strains of yeasts can be used to enhance certain aspects of a wine’s flavour profile. Read more



Herb & Spice



From aromatherapy oils to car air fresheners, cedar wood is prized for its rich and woody aromatic qualities. In wines, it’s a desirable scent that often indicates the use of oak in the production of red wines.

Most commonly, in full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon single varietal and blended wines, such as those of Napa Valley or Bordeaux — particularly the Left Bank appellations. For example Château Léoville-Barton, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé 1990, as cited in’s How to read wine tasting notes, or Château Haut-Bailly, Pessec-Léognan 1998, as mentioned in The seven key aromas of aged Bordeaux.

As it’s related to the use of oak in post-fermentation winemaking, cedar is classified as a secondary aroma. Within this category, it signifies a fresher and more savoury aroma than notes like vanilla or butterscotch, and expresses a resinous and slightly spicy character aligned with sandalwood and cloves.

Its falls among the subtler secondary aromas, therefore it might be harder to detect in the strongly aromatic oaks; such as American oak, where coconut and vanilla fragrances can dominate.

Cedar is also incorporated in the ‘cigar box’ tasting note, which describes the combination of the aromas of rolled tobacco leaves with boxes made of cedar wood, traditionally used for storing cigars.



Coffee is one of four key aromas that can help you to understand the difference between an oaked and un-oaked white wine, says Decanter’s Jane Anson. The others are vanilla, coconuts and cloves, incidentally. Coffee aromas can be formed over the ageing process in young wines fresh from the barrel, which is why you so often find a hint of smoky cappuccino in vintage Champagne.

Of course, there’s no actual coffee in your wine. It’s actually a chemical compound that you can smell. An organic compound called furfurylthiol is known to give off a smoky, coffee aroma, which emanates from oak barrel toasting.





Normally associated with Australian wines (particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz), eucalypt, mint, and camphor aromas can be found in other wines too, including Argentinian Cabernet Franc. This is due to the compound 1,8-cineole, also known as eucalyptol.

Studies have shown that vineyards with a closer proximity to eucalyptus trees have a higher incidence of the chemical in the wine, and therefore a stronger note of eucalypt. Eucalpytol is transmitted through the air onto grape skins, which are then fermented into wine, giving the distinct character.






Green Pepper

In cooking, some people avoid these peppers in favour of their sweeter red and yellow counterparts. But in wine, the sharply savoury aroma of a freshly-sliced green bell pepper makes it a useful tasting reference.

Sommelier Laura Ortiz explains the science: ‘When we smell green pepper in Cabernet Sauvignon, we are recognising the pyrazine, 3-isobutyl-2-methoxy piracina. A name we seldom remember, but it is impossible to forget the aroma of green pepper.’ Read the full article: Wine, in the nose.

The term green pepper can be used positively, as with some Cabernet Sauvignons from California and Chile, where it can be enjoyed as a counter-balance to the black fruit flavours like cassis. However, in those of Bordeaux a green character is less desirable, as it often taken to be a sign of under-ripeness, along with vegetal or leafy notes.

In white wines: new world Sauvignon Blancs, such as those of New Zealand and South Africa, commonly display vegetal notes like green pepper. Some people enjoy this green herbaceous character, while others prefer the more mineral examples from Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé.

Note: You may see it being alluded to under the bracket of capsicum, which simply refers to the pepper plant genus. Also, it’s not be confused with terms like ‘ground green pepper’ or ‘green peppercorns’, which refer to the peppercorn spice and not the bell pepper.






Hay can be experienced as a dried herbaceous or vegetative aroma in wine, in the same category as notes like straw, tobacco and tea. It’s usually expressed by non-fruit forward white wines, where it’s found alongside herbs and sweet floral aromas like honey or blossom.

Hay can be a secondary aroma associated with yeast influences from wines rested sur lie, ‘on the lees’, or those that have undergone bâtonnage, ‘lees-stirring’. This is commonly associated with Champagnes, like Alfred Gratien, Cuvée Paradis Brut 2006.

Notes of hay can also be an indication of maturity, thus qualifying as a tertiary aroma too. Look for it in oak-aged Chardonnays, such as Bouchard Père & Fils, Corton, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy 1955, where notes of hay are integrated with other tertiary aromas like lanolin, oatmeal and mushroom.

But be warned, when the processes of fermentation go awry the smell of mouldy hay can be a sign of microbial spoilage or brettanomyces contamination, leading to a wine that smells more like dank silage or a manure-laden farmyard.

With dank or mouldy notes it becomes a question of balance; aromas like damp hay, wet wool or ‘sweaty saddle’ may seem unpleasant to the imagination — but in wine sometimes even the most unlikely aromas can be powerfully alluring if counterbalanced correctly. Take a look at David & Nadia, Chenin blanc, Swartland, 2015, which displays ‘sweaty notes to the nose of hay and damp wool’, but this is tempered by the fruit concentration to create a ‘classy wine’.






Hedgerow refers to the shrubs, and occasionally trees, are used as natural roadside boundaries between fields. Dry white wines, such as Sancerre, often have these aromas – predominantly herbaceous, grassy and nettle-like – but they can also encompass the wild fruits and berries that grow on them too.

Examples may include elderflower, gooseberry, or even raspberries, brambles and blackberries. Hedgerow as a descriptor in a tasting note, therefore, will often denote this fresh, green integration of fruit and plant.








As a tasting note, honeysuckle is an aroma often ascribed to sweet white wines from the Sauternes and Barsac appellations in Bordeaux. This is because honeysuckle flowers exude intense honey-floral aromas associated with these wines.

They are produced using the onset of noble rot (botrytis cinerea) — a fungus that pierces the grape’s skin and accelerates the evaporation of water, drying out the berries whilst maintaining sugar levels. Noble rot can give wines a distinctively nuanced sweetness, with aromas ranging from rich butterscotch to the heady honey-floral notes of honeysuckle. See Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2012 or Château Climens 2012.

Aside from sweet wines, it’s also a typical expression of oaked Chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune appellation in Burgundy. Here, it can be found alongside other nutty and floral notes, such as Louis Latour, Meursault 1998, as seen in Decanter’how to read wine tasting notes guide. Or amongst the complex candied aromas of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Puligny-Montrachet 2015,from our Top-scoring Burgundy whites 2015.







This aroma does not come from leaves of the vine but is a flavour compound found in the skin of the grape: methoxypyrazine. This herbaceous character, which can be typical of cooler-climate Cabernet Sauvignon and is present in many Sauvignon Blancs, can be associated with a lack of ripeness. However, it can also give extra complexity to the wine if it is not too overt. Leafiness can evolve into a cigar box character when the wine is aged, but if the wine is too leafy to begin with then it may never reach its full potential as the tannins will also be unripe.







As a wine descriptor, liquorice refers to the sweet, yet slightly bitter and medicinal flavours and aromas associated with the chewy black confection made from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant root extract.

Although this is not actually present in the wines themselves, its likeness is often perceived in red wines, such as Syrah blends from Rhône, and is usually integrated with black fruit flavours. Or in the spiciness of wines made from the Nebbiolo grape, such as Barolo and Barbaresco wines from northwest Italy, where it is often expressed in harmony with violet and rose aromas.

Liquorice is part of the same flavour group as star anise and fennel, as they share chemical flavour compounds such as anethole, which is found widely in essential oils, and is responsible for their distinctive scent and taste.

It is a useful term to use to describe a particular tart and penetrating sweetness, differing from that related to sugar. Like liquorice itself, wines with this flavour or aroma can be divisive depending on personal taste; for some it recalls childhood treats, for others it causes nose-wrinkling.




Mint, or menthol aromas can be common in varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon grown in cooler climates like Bordeaux, Chile and Coonawarra in South Australia, but can also be found in other varieties such as Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet.

A mint aroma differs from a eucalypt note, which normally comes from contamination by nearby eucalypt trees. It has recently been discovered that mintiness in wine is caused by the compound piperitone, which is also found naturally in mint plants.









Even for smokers, the thought of tobacco in your wine is probably not very appealing. However, the term tobacco is used in a positive sense when it comes to describing wine. This is because it’s meant to conjure the fragrance of fresh tobacco, rather than the more acrid smell of cigarette smoke.

The aroma of freshly cut or cured tobacco leaves is often described as enjoyably woody, with a maple sweetness and violet floral notes. It’s considered so pleasant by some it’s even infused into men’s fragrances.

Tobacco is experienced as an aroma, rather than as taste. More specifically, it’s classified as a tertiary aroma, as it’s considered to be a sign of maturity. It’s generally an indicator that a red wine has been bottle-aged, along with notes like leather and wet leaves.

Typically, tobacco notes are found in mature full-bodied red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignons from a range of regions, including those of California, Australia, South Africa and South America. It can also be detected in some aged Riojas and Amarone wines from Northern Italy.

In wines such as mature reds from Bordeaux, the tobacco aroma can develop into what is termed ‘cigar box’. This note combines the tobacco scent of cigars with that of cedar wood, giving the effect of a freshly opened box of Havanas.


As with many floral notes in wine, rose is sweet on the nose but more bitter and austere on the palate. In this way it’s comparable to notes of violet and magnolia, stopping short of the slight acridity of lily or geranium.

You may find the flower referred to directly or as ‘rose petal’, as well in the form ‘rose water’ — which suggests it smells more like musky perfume, or tastes a bit like Turkish Delight.

The science behind rose’s flavour profile comes down to 3 key chemical compounds: rose oxide, β-damascenone and β-ionone.

Usually it’s the rose oxide element that makes it comparable with the smell of some Gewürtztraminer wines. They’re known for their highly aromatic qualities and signature lychee notes — a fruit which carries the same rose oxide compound.

SEE: Jean Cornelius, Gewürztraminer, Alsace 2015 | Paul Cluver, Gewürztraminer, Elgin 2015

β-ionone is also behind the aroma of violets, so it makes sense that violet-scented wines can sometimes harbour rose hints too — such as red wines made in Piedmont from the thick-skinned Nebbiolo grape. You can also look for rose notes in young Pinot Noir wines, particularly those made in Australia and New Zealand.

SEE: Henschke, The Rose Grower Nebbiolo, Eden Valley, Australia 2013 | Giovanni Rosso, Serra, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy 2012 | Pegasus Bay, Pinot Noir, Waipara, New Zealand 2013 | Deviation Road, Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2012

Note: Rose as a tasting note has little to do with rosé wines, which are named after their pinkish colour rather than for a floral character (see Spanish rosado and Italian rosato equivalents).


Vanilla is one of the most frequent tasting notes applied to wines, and it belongs to the sweet spice category. It can be found in red or white wines, usually as an aroma instead of a taste. Vanilla notes are usually generated during the ageing process of wine in oak barrels, typically American oak as opposed to French oak, and younger barrels rather than older. In this sense it is identified as a tertiary aroma, as it is produced by wine ageing.

Decanter’s Sarah Jane Evans MW explains the science: ‘Vanilla, or vanillin, is an aldehyde that is a component of the oak. It is more marked in US oak’. Read more

Reds from Rioja are a common example, such as Faustino’s Gran Reserva 2001, praised for its ‘sweet, vanilla notes of American oak’ — as are oak-aged Chardonnay wines from California and Australia.

The way a barrel is toasted can also bring out vanilla in wines, as William Kelley notes, ‘lighter toast levels bring aromas of vanilla and fresh wood to the fore’.





When describing wine, vegetal can be used in a negative or positive sense — as with most tasting notes it’s a question of balance. If the vegetal character is too overbearing, it can become an unpleasant indicator that the wine is too ‘green’, meaning the grapes used were unable to ripen properly before being harvested.

Or alternatively, as with fruity notes, it can appear as unattractively over-developed or stewed. Such as one Chianti Classico Riserva described by Michael Palij MW as ‘vegetal with sweat, cabbage’.

Vegetal notes can also be associated with the term ‘stalky’, when wines have had too much stem contact. This can happen during a winemaking process such as whole bunch fermentation, where the stems are not removed before the fruit goes into the fermentation vat. Decanter’s Jane Anson discusses its use in her article Whole bunch winemaking shakes up Bordeaux. She says that in the past the prevailing opinion has been: ‘Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon have too much vegetal/green flavour in their varietal DNA (specifically a molecule known as pyrazine) to withstand the use of stems that can lead to bitterness in the final wine.’ However, recently several high profile winemakers have begun to see potential in the process.

The divided nature of the vegetal flavour can be seen by comparing the styles of Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and the Loire. ‘No self-respecting Loire grower would deliberately aim for vegetal characters; on the other hand many New Zealand growers do precisely that,’ explains Decanter’s Stephen Brook.

At its best, vegetal can be enjoyed as a sign of herbaceous complexity; alongside gamey and earthy notes in mature Pinot Noirs, or in the asparagus quality of some Sauvignon Blancs.


As a tasting note, violet is generally picked up as an aroma in wine, but it can be a flavour too — as anyone with a penchant for Parma Violet sweets will know. Violet commonly displays a musky sweetness on the nose, but tastes a touch more bitter and austere on the palate. In this way, it can be aligned with other bittersweet and perfumed floral notes such as bergamot, rose, geranium and lavender. Just like perfume, it’s a matter of preference whether you find violet flavours and aromas off-putting or appealing in wines.

The distinctive scent and flavour comes from two chemical compounds: α-ionone and β-ionone, which are also used in the confectionary and perfumery products derived from violets.

It’s crops up in a broad range of full-bodied tannic red wine styles with high acidity, usually made from thick-skinned grapes. Such as Italian wines like Barolo and Barbaresco made from the Nebbiolo varietal, where violet can be found alongside notes of fennel, liquorice and tar.

It’s also abundant in Bordeaux blends, and it’s commonly referred to in the latest Decanter’s en primeur tastings. Most notably, in Pomerol’s high scorers Château La Conseillante 2016 and Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2016, where violet is coupled with dark fruit notes like black cherry, blackberry and bilberry.






Biscuit/biscuity descriptors are most often associated with aged Champagne, where the process of yeast autolysis and time enable a rich, digestive biscuit-like character to develop. It can also be found in oak-aged Chardonnay, where it can be a development of the caramelised butterscotch aromas that comes from the wood.





Bubblegum is a unique aroma that is found in wines that have undergone carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration. Whole bunches are placed into a sealed fermentation vessel. CO2 is added either artificially (carbonic), or occurs naturally via aerobic fermentation (semi-carbonic). Once the CO2 is added, enzymes begin consuming the available sugars in an anaerobic fermentation process. This process will only produce about three degrees of alcohol, so it must always be followed with a normal yeast fermentation. Although it produces little alcohol it has a marked effect on the aroma and taste of the wine.

In these processes, esters such as ethyl cinnamate are produced in higher quantities than normal, lending flavours such as raspberry, strawberry, bubblegum and even candy floss. The low level of contact between skin and juice means that little tannin is extracted, so wines that undergo this process (most famous being Beaujolais Nouveau) can be drunk soon after fermentation.

The bubblegum flavour can also indicate an excessive use of potassium sorbate – a chemical that is used at the end of fermentation to prevent the yeast from multiplying further.






Buttery flavours or aromas are normally associated with white wines, and can be produced during malolactic fermentation or oak barrel-ageing. These wines are typically Chardonnays from California, Australia and Burgundy.

The effect of a buttery scent or taste can be produced by a chemical compound called diacetyl — it’s also added to artificial butter products and margarines. Diecetyl can also change the mouthfeel of wines, giving them a smoother and more rounded texture, as might be associated with butter.

In winemaking it occurs as a natural byproduct of malolactic fermentation; the process by which bacteria converts malic acid into lactic acid — the same substance that is found in dairy products like butter.

Alternatively, buttery flavours and aromas can be produced during the process of barrel-ageing wines in new oak. A good example is an oaked Chardonnay like Louis Latour’s Meursault 1998, which can be found in Decanter’s how to read wine tasting notes guide. In these tasting notes ‘new wood’ flavours of vanilla appear alongside butter, both are secondary aromas that indicate at least some of the wine has been aged in new American oak.

In some instances, bâtonnage (stirring the lees) can produce butter-like flavours: the macromolecules imparted by the dead yeast cells create a smoother mouthfeel and richer yeasty flavours, which can be reminiscent of butter on the nose and palate.





The idea of caramel being swirled through your wine might be pretty sickly, but if it features subtly as a tasting note it can bring a luxuriantly developed sweetness to the nose and palate.

Don’t be mistaken, no actual caramel has been magically formed in the bottle. The caramel-like effect is sometimes created by the vines being intentionally infected with botrytis cinerea, aka noble rot — a form of fungus that dries out the grapes, concentrating sugar levels. This practice is commonly used in the production of dessert wines, such as those of the Sauternes and Barsac appellations, or Trockenbeerenauslese wines from Germany or Austria.

SEE: Château d’Yquem, Sauternes, 1er Cru Classé Supérieur 2016 | Château Nairac, Barsac, 2ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux 2005 | Kracher Welschriesling, TBA ‘No 8’ Austria 2001

Botrytis can also alter the mouthfeel of a wine, as it digests sugar and acids and excretes glycerol in its place. So the developed sweetness and silky mouthfeel can lead to an sensorial impression of smooth caramel.

Lastly, this clever noble rot injects an enzyme called laccase, which is responsible for oxidising the wine, producing flavours ranging from apricot and almond to toffee and caramel. It can also induce deep golden hues, so the wine appears caramel coloured, too. Look for it in other oxidised wine styles, such as in tawny Port or Palo Cortado Sherry.

SEE: Graham’s, 30 Year Old Tawny, Port NV | Lustau, Palo Cortado Almacenista Cayetano del Pino, Jerez NV

Another way to create caramel flavours is by the use of oak, because it can appear as a secondary aroma from oak-ageing, along with butterscotch and vanilla. This can particularly be detected in Chardonnays aged in American oak, rather than French oak.

SEE: Astrolabe, Province Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand 2014 | Ramey Wine Cellars, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros, Napa Valley 2012 | Oak Valley, Chardonnay, Elgin, South Africa 2014





The term chalky is usually applied to white wines with high acidity from cool climate terroirs with stony soils, and falls into the mineral category along with notes of flint and slate. Including Chardonnay wines from Chablis and Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre.

Our ability to perceive these mineral flavours in wine has caused some disagreement between scientists and wine experts, but it is nevertheless widely used at tastings. (If you are struggling, try to imagine licking a piece of chalky rock.)

Sarah Jane Evans MW relates the term chalky to mouthfeel when talking about wines with minerality, describing them as having ‘a taste as if of licking wet stones and often a chalky texture to match’. Read more

This can relate to the astringency of tannins, as the mouth-drying effect can recall the powdery or grainy feeling of chalk. For example a tannic red wine with a drying and lingering finish may be noted for its ‘chalky tannins’.





Chocolate is quite a common flavour and aroma in full-bodied reds from warmer climates, such as southern French Merlot, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Barossa Valley Shiraz. It can be identified in several different guises – milk chocolate, dark chocolate and even cocoa powder. The latter can sometimes be associated with ripe, sweet tannins, providing a descriptor of texture as well as flavour. Barrels that have been heavily toasted, either using an open flame or in an oven, can also lend chocolatey flavours to a wine.





After a traditional-method sparkling wine is disgorged, the liqueur d’expédition is added to create the final dosage. This addition of sugary liquid is used to balance the high acidity levels. With the correct addition, the dosage can accentuate the body of the wine and also give a certain roundness. Too much or too little can lead to a wine that is flabby or one that is too tart.

In recent years there has been a trend towards zero dosage, but it can be difficult to create a balanced wine unless conditions are right. So what do the names on the bottle actually mean in regards to dosage? Brut Nature (0-3g/l of sugar), Extra Brut (0-6g/l), Brut (0-12g/l), Extra-Sec (12-17g/l), Sec (17-32g/l), Demi-Sec (32-50g/l), Doux (50+g/l).





Earthy is a versatile tasting note that can encompass a range of wine flavour profiles; from dry and dusty aromas to tertiary aromas such as wet forest floor, or even farmyard manure odours. Earthy can be seen as belonging to the same flavour profile as notes like wet wool, mineral and tar aromas; all are naturally occurring substances. But they have little in common with fruit, vegetal or floral notes.

If subtle, and well integrated, then earthy can be considered a welcome addition to a wine’s aroma, particularly for more full-bodied reds. These include Italian wines made from the Sangiovese grape, like those from Brunello di Montalcino, and more rustic southern Italian varieties like Primitivo and Aglianico.

Earthy is also a positive thing for some Pinot Noir and Syrah wines, where it can add complexity as a secondary and tertiary aroma.

SEE: Undurraga, TH Pinot Noir, Leyda 2013 | Keermont Syrah, Stellenbosch 2012

If earthy notes veer more towards a farmyard smell, this could be due to Brettanomyces, a wine-altering strain of yeast. Some wine lovers enjoy its effects at low levels, but its presence causes debate.

Earthy notes could also be attributed to the chemical compound geosmin, which occurs naturally in grapes. The name directly translates to ‘earth smell’ in greek.

This same compound is released into the air by newly turned over soil, or a garden after rainfall. In wine, high levels of geosmin generally indicate a fault. Look out for when earthy smells eclipse expected fruit aromas, or tend more towards the smell of wet cardboard — you could have yourself a corked wine.


This term is derived from the French phrase ‘goût de pierre à fusil’, which literally means tasting of flint stone. Flint, flinty or even gunflint are terms used to describe the minerality note that is found in dry, austere white wines, notably Chablis and Sancerre.

If you want to experience what flint smells like, next time you are walking in the South Downs, pick up two pieces of chalk and rub them together. If this isn’t an option, think of wet pebbles.





The main defining factors of honey are its sweetness and its viscosity. Therefore as a tasting note it’s often applied to dessert wines, which are more syrupy in taste and density than other wines.

As honey is made from floral nectar, it has rich and heady aromatic properties that make it a suitable descriptor for late harvest wines. These can include wines made from grapes left to dry out on the vine, or developed by the onset of noble rot (botrytis cinerea) — giving the wines a concentrated aroma and a taste that’s reminiscent of honey.

It’s often found alongside stone fruit and dried fruit notes, most notable in sweet wines from Sauternes. Other examples include Tokaji wines from Hungary, and German Rieslings belonging to the Auslese, Spätlese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese classifications.

Honey is also aligned with complex notes like tobacco and hay as a sign of a wine’s maturity, for honey has a multilayered sweetness that incorporates fructose and floral flavours. Additionally, aged sweet white wines can recall honey in their appearance, as their hues darken over time. Like honey, dessert wines such as Sauternes or Tokaji wines can range from the palest yellow to tawny bronze, depending on the vintage.

As a tasting note, it’s generally understood that the wine contains no actual honey. However, there is evidence that honey was originally used by the Romans to fortify wines, in a process that later came to be known as chaptalisation, when sugar is added to the grapes prior to fermentation. It’s also not to be confused with ‘honey wine’, which is actually mead and is made from fermented honey instead of grapes.




Associated with Syrah, particularly from the northern Rhône, as well as Sangiovese in Tuscany, iodine or blood-like notes are derived from the grape or the terroir rather than the addition of the element itself. Some say iodine aromas are increased if vines are planted closer to the sea as well.

It should be mentioned that when fruit has succumbed to excess rot, the resulting wine may also have iodine or phenol aromas, and in this case it is considered a fault.







Graphite is a common descriptor, especially for fine red wines, signifying notes of pencil lead or a lead-like minerality. Some claim the aromas and flavours come from the wine’s contact with wood during oak maturation. However, others, especially producers in Bierzo and Priorat in Spain, believe that terroir contributes these characters – thus their slate soils provide a graphite taste to the wine. If you are unsure what graphite smells like, try sharpening an HB pencil.








An aroma often found in red wines that have been aged in oak. Either a secondary or a tertiary aroma, it is associated with the winemaker’s influence and a wine’s ageing process rather than a grape’s varietal characteristic or primary aroma.

It is often used as a descriptor in conjunction with vanilla, toast and cedar, which are all associated with the use of oak in red wines. It can also be a savoury characteristic indicative of a wine softening and ageing, losing some of its primary fruit and gaining complexity and depth.





Grilled or raw meat aromas can be found in muscular reds such as northern Rhône Syrah, Toro and Bordeaux. Game is a slightly lighter, more fragrant character that can be found in wines with red fruit characteristics, such as Pinot Noir, Barbaresco, Rioja and Pinotage. It is reminiscent of hung pheasants and ‘farmyard’ aromas, Both meat and game aromas can be amplified over time, so are usually found in more mature bottles of wine, and are considered to be positive (and occasionally defining) characteristics of a particular wine style.

In some cases these characteristics are caused by Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that can easily infect winemaking equipment, particularly the rough interior surface of wooden barrels. In small doses it produces meaty flavours that can benefit the complexity of a wine, although higher levels can can easily spoil the wine with impressions of cheese, rubber and sweat!





This common description can be used to describe both red and white wines, although it is more common with whites. It is a positive attribute that can be associated with the acidity of the wine, but also the aroma; for example slate, gun flint or wet stones.

The use and meaning of minerality is hotly debated and there is no chemical evidence that shows a mineral aroma or flavour is related to a specific mineral or nutrient in the soil or in wine. Therefore, while we use mineral or minerality often as a descriptor it is still quite a mystery as to what causes this sensation.







An oxidative style of winemaking is a controlled process of exposing the wine to oxygen. It enhances flavours deemed desirable – such as nuts or dried fruits – and increases complexity in the wine. The opposing method is a reductive style of winemaking where the amount of oxygen exposure is limited to preserve the wine’s fresh fruit characters. Most wines lie between these two styles, achieving a good balance, but some winemakers prefer a more marked oxidative or reductive style.





Petrol notes in wine are caused by a chemical, trimethyl-dihydronaphthalene (TDN), whose precursors are naturally found in the juice and skins of the Riesling grape.

Generally, aged Rieslings can have a petrol aroma as the precursors in the wine combine over time to form TDN. When this note is found in young wines, it is considered by some, notably Rhône and Australian producer Michel Chapoutier, to be a fault due to over-pressing during harvest.






Imbibing silk might be hard to imagine, and not particularly tempting, but it is certainly a desirable quality in wine.

It is experienced in the mouthfeel of the wine; as you roll it around your palate you get a sense of density and texture. A wine described as silky should feel smooth and luscious in your mouth, with sufficient body to make you aware of its texture, yet elevated enough to avoid being flabby.

In red wines, the term silky is commonly applied to tannins. ‘Silky tannins’ is often a term of praise used for well-aged reds such those of Bordeaux, or a Sangiovese like the Decanter wine legend Biondi Santi, Tenuta il Greppo 1975.

Tannins give red wines structure and texture, and in the ageing process they can evolve from feeling coarse to having a silky quality, as they become more integrated in the wine.

In a similar way, structure can be added to white and sparkling wines by resting them on the lees (dead yeast cells), a process known as sur lie. If macromolecules, imparted by the lees, become well-integrated with the wine they can create a silky feel. A similar effect can be achieved by bâtonnage (stirring the lees).

As a term describing a tannic or yeasty mouthfeel, silky feels more polished than a ‘velvety’ wine, but perhaps not as weighty as a ‘creamy’ wine.

It can also manifest itself in white wines with high levels of glycerin, such as Albariño from Rias Baixas or Vinho Verde. As well as Viognier wines, which are often described as having an oily texture, and this can create a silky sensation in the mouth.






Smoky notes generally come from oak. Normally the intensity of smoky aromas and flavours in a wine will be determined by the toast of the oak (how charred it was), how many times the barrel has been used and how long the wine spends in the barrel. If the wine is put into a new barrel that has had a heavy toast then the likelihood of having smoky notes will increase. This can be desirable if the wine has the structure to handle the oak.

Sometimes heavy toasting and too many new barrels can lead to an overtly smoky wine, which may integrate with time, but can be difficult to assess when the wine is young. Smoke taint can also happen, when forest fires occur between veraison (when the grapes ripen) and harvest time. This has been a problem for winemakers in Canada’s Okanagan Valley, California and throughout Australia.


Steely is a term commonly used to promote fashionable dry white wines, but what does it mean in the mouth? It describes a metallic flavour and a firm mouthfeel. Generally these wines are low in alcohol, high in acidity, with distinguished minerality. In this way it’s aligned with notes like flint and graphite.

Examples include cool climate wines, like Rieslings from Germany, Alsace, Austria or Eden Valley in Australia.

SEE: Malat, Riesling Classic, Kremstal 2015 | Ernst Loosen, Villa Wolf Dry Riesling, Pfalz, Germany 2014 | McWilliam Family, Zeppelin, Eden Valley, 2014 

It’s also associated with Austria’s most widely planted grape variety, Grüner Veltliner, and is often considered a trademark of fine Chardonnay wines from Chablis.

SEE: Steininger, Grand Grü Grüner Veltliner Reserve, Kamptal 2015 | Jean-Marc Brocard, Butteaux, Chablis 1er Cru 2014 | Simonnet-Febvre, Chablis 2014

There is some crossover between metallic and mineral wines, and opinion is divided about whether these flavours are derived directly from the soil, or whether it’s simply an effect created by clean and neutral wines; absent of sweetness or strong fruit flavours, but with a solid acidic structure. In the same vein as mineral wines, steely wines often express floral, green apple or citrus flavours and aromas, rather than sweet fruity notes.

As with tannins in red wines, it’s acidity that changes the mouthfeel of white wines. Steely wines can feel almost hard-edged in the mouth; something that’s usually desirable, rather than a flabby wine, and it should bode well for the ageing potential of the wine too.






Tar may seem an unlikely substance to be evoked by wine, but as with notes of tobacco and petrol it can be an unusual source of pleasure. If expressed in harmony with the other flavours and aromas of the wine, tar can add a pungent edge, the kind to make your nostrils dilate.

It is usually used as a savoury descriptor of red wines; Barolo wines from Piedmont are most commonly ascribed a tar-like quality. They are made from the thick-skinned Nebbiolo grape, and usually have high acidity with no shortage of tannins. Nebbiolo’s bouquet encompasses violet, smoke and rose-like perfumes, with flavours that include truffle, fennel, liquorice and, most famously, tar.

However, as with other distinctive tasting notes, if you have an intense dislike for the smell of asphalt it can be too distracting, and detract from your appreciation of other aromas and flavours in the wine.








Not your typical aroma or tasting note, but it is used to describe this almost sweet, intriguing plastic quality. It may be a sign of reduction, where in the winemaking, lack of oxygen creates a growth of chemical compounds called mercaptans.

These can be extremely unpleasant, creating notes of rotten eggs, cabbage or struck matches. However, if a balance is achieved in this reductive technique, desirable notes can be created, such as quince, smokiness, peardrop or even vinyl.










Candle wax or beeswax aromas can be common in aged white wines for a number of reasons. Ethyl acetates, a contributor to honey and wax aromas, can be created by yeast during fermentation (common in Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay). However, they can also come from bottle ageing, as is common in older Rieslings; this is due to the breakdown of other components in the wine to create ethyl acetates.

Wax aromas are, however, different from the petrol aromas often found in aged Rieslings – these are caused by another natural and very potent compound, TDN, which can be detected at concentrations of micrograms per litre.

Got a tasting note you don’t understand? Send it in to
More learning: What happens as wine ages?

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An American friend sent me a copy of Bianca Bosker’s July 29th New Yorker article entitled ‘Is There a Better…

The post Updated: Tasting notes decoded appeared first on Decanter.

Toulouse wine tour: Gaillac travel guide

June 22, 2017 - 5:52am

Andy Howard picks where to stay, eat and visit....

Hôtel des Consuls, Castelnau-de-MontmiralToulouse wine tour: Gaillac travel guide Gaillac: Where to stay

Château de Salettes, Cahuzac-sur-Vère

Located in the heart of the vineyards, this luxurious hotel dates back to the 13th century. Beautifully restored, it has a lovely pool and one of the region’s top restaurants.

Breakfast at Chateau de Salettes

Hôtel des Consuls, Castelnau-de-Montmiral

Located right in the central square of this historic 14th-century village. Here you have commanding views and a great central location for wine visits, cycling and walks.

La Verrerie, Gaillac

A 10-minute walk from the centre of Gaillac. Pleasant shaded gardens, spa and swimming pool, and the restaurant is popular with locals.

La Verrerie

Gaillac: Where to eat

Alchimy, Albi

This very smart restaurant is located in an atmospheric Art Deco building in central Albi. The main restaurant room is stunning, with food matching the setting.

Alchimy, Albi

Bruno Besson, La Taverne, Castelnau-de-Levis

Completely refurbished a couple of years ago, this was always a good address for typical Tarn fare, but the food is now much more stylish, combining elegance with tradition. Good selection of menus.

La Maison Gourmande, Marssac-sur-Tarn

Combines a top-class delicatessen with the option to enjoy the products in an intimate setting. In summer months, enjoy a great value lunch in the lovely walled garden.

Vigne en Foule

Vigne en Foule, Gaillac

This classy establishment prides itself on modern bistro/brasseriestyle dishes, with an intriguing selection of wines (also available to take away).

Gaillac: Things to do

Cathedral of Ste-Cécile, Albi

The world’s largest brick-built cathedral, this imposing building dominates the Albi skyline. Construction commenced in the 13th century.


A picture-postcard spot, with the medieval town located high on a vertiginous hill. A popular tourist destination, so avoid weekends and the high summer if possible. Many galleries, craft shops and eateries await.

Cordes sur ciel

Maison des Vins, Gaillac

Houses the appellation offices, a tourist centre and an interesting museum showing the history of wine production in the region, also wine tasting and the opportunity to purchase bottles at domaine prices.

Toulouse-Lautrec museum, Albi

Located in the Palais de la Berbie, this museum houses a unique collection of the early works of Toulouse-Lautrec, along with a recently opened museum of contemporary art.

More travel guides: Toulouse wine tour: Explore nearby wineries in Gaillac

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The post Toulouse wine tour: Gaillac travel guide appeared first on Decanter.

Love Wine promotes award-winning wines

June 22, 2017 - 2:39am

Buy award-winning wines from Love Wine this summer

Visit Jersey’s Love Wine this summer and have the chance to buy 48 award-winning wines from this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).

The independent wine merchant will be offering 10% off bottles and 15% off their special Decanter Awards mixed case.

Customers will be able to purchase a selection of this year’s Commended wines, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum winners from across the globe.

Some of the top awarded wines available at Love Wine include:

Devil’s Corner -winner of the Platinum – Best in Show: Best Dry Riesling 

Devil’s Corner, Riesling, Tasmania, Australia 2015 – Platinum – Best in Show

Yalumba, Museum Reserve Muscat, South Eastern Australia NV – Gold

Yalumba, The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia 2013 – Gold


Don’t miss out – offer ends 20th July!

Promotional period: 22nd June – 20th July
Address: Love Wine, Longueville Road, St Saviour, Jersey, JE2 7WF




The post Love Wine promotes award-winning wines appeared first on Decanter.

Anson: So Brexit is happening – what next for the wine trade?

June 21, 2017 - 11:00pm

Jane Anson reports on a debate at Vinexpo in Bordeaux on the possible Brexit fallout for the wine trade, as UK and European Union officials begin talks.

Theresa May said that the UK was prepared to leave the single market.

This is the week it just got real.

After a year of navel-gazing over what exact consistency of Brexit we want in the UK, on Monday morning June 19, David Davis and his team headed to Brussels to opens talks with Michel Barnier, the EU Commission’s chief negotiator that will determine how and when the UK leaves the European Union.

After months of inertia, we just might see things start to come into focus now (well, after the long and civilized European summer holidays of course).

The timing made it a particularly interesting week to hold a conference on Brexit and wine at Vinexpo. I was moderating the debate, and learning a lot, from the brilliant panel of:

  • Jean Marie Barillère, head of the European Wine Trade Association and president of the Union of Champagne Houses
  • Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association in the UK
  • Andrew Shaw, group buying director for Conviviality, the UK’s largest wine distributor
  • Sean Allison, an ex Merrill Lynch economist originally from New Zealand and now owner of Château de Seuil in Graves, Bordeaux

It was a fascinating talk, not least because it took place on mainland Europe soil and was attended by many stakeholders on the ‘other side’ – including châteaux owners, European merchants (even one importing beer and gin from the UK, who wondered if he should be driving the price down from his UK suppliers given the drop in sterling) and other stake holders.

So, for those of you who didn’t make it to Vinexpo in the sweltering conditions of Bordeaux this week, I thought it might be useful to sum up what was covered, and what we are likely to see emerging over the coming months.

See also: What to do before Brexit Impact of UK election

First up, we start the Brexit discussions on very different ground than we expected a few weeks ago. On one level, the hung parliament delivered by the UK electorate on June 8 means more uncertainty after a year of… umm, uncertainty.

And yet for the wine trade, which almost unanimously wishes for trade to continue as uninterruptedly as possible, the result offers plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Most importantly, Prime Minister May no longer has a majority, which makes her vision of an extreme Brexit far less workable.

The more moderate voices are not just speaking up now, but applying seemingly coordinated attacks (see Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond both giving speeches this week spelling out their desire to move the economy firmly to the top of the agenda, above immigration).

This should mean that wine industry lobbying will start to fall on more receptive ears.

Impact of Currency Devaluation

This, as Beale pointed out, is the only concrete effect that we have seen so far. Sterling is a good 15% down on last year and it has meant that wine prices so far for the UK consumer have risen slowly but surely.

That prompted some of the panel to point out a possible benefit for the trade was that a £5 price barrier in the UK that consumers were traditionally unwilling to move beyond has been firmly broken. The average bottle price was £5.56 in the second quarter of 2017; perhaps not a great trend if you’re a consumer, all the same.

I would add to that the Bordeaux en primeur campaign has been something of a canary in the coal mine when it comes to the longer-term impact. The Bordeaux châteaux raised their prices in 2016 by an average of 12% – not inconsiderable of course, but actually relatively restrained considering the quality of the vintage.

But for British consumers, the prices they were seeing were around 25% higher on average, because nobody was absorbing price rises along the way, as suppliers or distributors might well choose to do in the ‘normal’ run of things on supermarket shelves. That’s a painful and immediate effect for wine lovers to swallow.

Broadly speaking however, Forex was seen as less of a problem by the panel than taxes, with Andrew Shaw saying currency swings are ‘only 1%, 2% or 3% of the total cost of the product. Duty is still the dominant factor in the price per bottle, with VAT on top.’

Beale added that there is also, ‘the UK policy of increasing excise duty by at least inflation, with one increase this year that was linked to retail prices and came out at 3.9%’.

The Divorce Bill

Ah, the famous £100 billion divorce bill. Wise words from Sean Allison here, that in terms of minimising uncertainty, it would be better to pay it and move ahead.

He said, ‘A £100 billion for a divorce… or perhaps £60 billion… these sound like a big sums, but if it’s added on to the UK debt pile, it is about 2% of the total, relatively small compared to what happened during the financial crisis, where UK debt increased by about 30% of GDP.

‘So, my view would be let’s get the money sorted out relatively quickly. That is not a big cost to the UK when weighed up against an uncertain period of five years where investment is low and we don’t know where we are going.’

View from Europe

Barillère was quietly reassuring, adopting a similar tone to that we have seen from Michel Barnier to date (and more specifically on Monday). Along the lines of it’s all very regrettable, the EU clear that this was the UK’s choice and respects it, and will support you through it but that some consequences are unavoidable.

He pointed out that although all wine producing countries will be affected in much the same way by Brexit, differences will be seen in terms of how they negotiate (with France seen as the most inflexible) and also in the level of trade negotiations expertise that each country is able to field.

But I would say he was the most confident panel member about what lay ahead, so let’s hope he’s got a direct line into Barnier.

Future for English wine market

One hugely positive thing to come out of the talk, from all sides, was the attractiveness of the British consumer. We know 25% of EU wine exports are destined for the UK market, representing around €2 billion per year, and the UK is the second largest importer of wines in the world.

But there is also the appeal of the individual consumer, and the depth of knowledge found within the market.

Shaw said, ‘the British consumer has always been a test bed for many wine styles, and always been window to the world, and this has huge value for wine brands looking to export internationally.

Allison, as a producer, agreed, calling the UK ‘the world’s most competitive wine market and both attractive and enjoyable because of it’.

The Service Sector

One of the most enjoyable things about wine is that it is part of a wider eating and drinking culture. Which means restaurants, bars, sommeliers, wine shop workers and so on – many of whom will have been made distinctly uncomfortable by the rhetoric coming hard and fast over the past year.

‘The labour market is another way of saying immigration policy,’ said Allison. ‘If we don’t have access to those people … we will have a very difficult situation in terms of the profitability of the service industries.

‘A friend of mine has a chain of restaurants, mainly around London, where he is at about 80% in terms of staff levels from Eastern Europe and Europe generally. I don’t see how we can decouple the immigration argument from the trade argument, for me that is the crux of the matter.’

Potential of euro trading for the UK?

This is a rumor I heard a few weeks ago; about a number of UK merchants looking at trading in euros from next year. I asked the question to the audience but nobody confirmed any plans. So I asked a few traders this morning if it would be feasible, and they said… not really.

Wine merchants becoming (effectively) currency traders would hardly be desirable, especially in a market as unregulated as wine trading.

And if any UK wine merchants were instead to open a European head office and make it their main accounting centre, then it’s game over for London as the world’s wine merchant.

But no amount of history is going to stop the biggest wine merchants from wanting to maintain their bottom line and future, so I would suggest that if reassurances on business are not forthcoming soon, the idea of being based in the euro zone will become increasingly attractive.

This is a big question, one that is being grappled with by the banking sector and many others, and I’m certainly going to be looking into it further.

Timetable from Here

As you know, the Brexit talks started on Monday and from now the teams (so Tim Barrow, David Davis, Oliver Robbins, Philip Rycroft and Glyn Williams for the British and François Arbault, Michel Barnier, Philippe Bertrand, George Emil Riekeles, Richard Szostak, Sabin Weyand, Nicolas de la Grandville and Stéphanie Riso for the EU) will meet for one week every four weeks.

The first sessions will deal with financial settlements and obligations, plus the status of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU and the Irish border issues.

Only then will they turn to future trade deals – likely to be in October – with six months needed at the end of the two-year period for the 27 member countries to ratify any agreements.  That’s going to go by awfully quickly.

On the bright side, for our industry at least, there is a symmetry of trade balance – €2.5 billion worth of wine entering UK and €2.2 billion of spirits leaving it, something that led Barrillère and Beale to feel relatively optimistic (‘as long as the politicians don’t get in the way’) about the length of time needed – plus of course, they pointed out, our ‘red tape’ today is exactly the same across all industries, which should also speed things up.

However, they all pointed out that ratification is one thing, implementation is another.

So good news that the noises from politicians this week seems to be that an adjustment period and interim agreement looks more likely. ‘All talk of ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ seems to have gone away,’ said Beale.

In short – the trade wants to keep the politicians from messing things up…

This might be naive of course, and one former Washington reporter at the conference pointed out, keenly aware that politicians can’t help themselves from scoring points off each other.

We spoke about plenty of instances where politics most clearly affected trade – the 2003 Iraq war and the 1990 nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific being just two examples.

But nevertheless that was undoubtedly the message coming across from these senior members of wine industry – two of whom it is important to note will be part of the lobbying battle ahead.

Beale summed up the task before them succinctly. ‘We are working very very hard to ensure that everything stays the same,’ he said. Let’s all wish them the best of luck with that.

Update: It was Sean Allison who spoke about the divorce bill, not Andrew Shaw. 

Still want more? Read our Brexit coverage below:


Article 50 date set: What to do before Brexit

Things to tick off your list...

Brexit is forcing up UK wine prices, warns WSTA

Brexit effects are starting to bite, says wine body...

Brexit: Tenth of Britons fear Champagne and Prosecco ban – survey

Britons fear a Champagne ban after Brexit...

What does Brexit mean for supermarket wine? – ask Decanter

What does Brexit mean for everyday supermarket wine prices?

Dollar wine buyers swoop for Brexit deals

Buyers in US, Asia and Europe eye wine deals...

Brexit blamed for lower Christmas Champagne orders

Sharp drop in October...

Fears over sommelier shortfall as Brexit looms

Can the UK still attract enough talent?...

Anson: Here’s the Brexit reaction in Bordeaux

Find out what Bordeaux is thinking...

The post Anson: So Brexit is happening – what next for the wine trade? appeared first on Decanter.

France is Britons’ favourite country to visit for food – survey

June 21, 2017 - 10:46pm

And dining options were a key aspect of planning a holiday for around one third of people questioned, according to OpenTable.

Auberge la Reine Jeanne, ProvenceBritons love to visit France for food

Britain may be in the throes of Brexit talks, but more than half of those surveyed by OpenTable say France is their top food destination.

Fifty two percent of those surveyed by restaurants booking site OpenTable chosen France as their favourite country to travel to for food.

Seven out of thirteen of the UK regions asked also chose Florence as an ideal destination for dining.

OpenTable & One Poll surveyed 2,000 UK holidaymakers in May 2017.

Local cuisine is one of the most important factors for Britons when booking a holiday, according to the survey.

Logis Cadene, St Emilion. Credit: Logis Cadene

Almost a third of those surveyed said they factored in dining out options when choosing a holiday destination – making it more important than nightlife or outdoor activities.

Fifty-five percent also said that having flown abroad for food in the past five years, and 52% also said that they wanted to try new dishes and dining experiences when eating abroad.

‘Over time travel and dining have become synonymous,’ said Adrian Valeriano, vice president EMEA, for OpenTable.

‘Our latest research shows that the local cuisine and dining choices now form an integral part of the holiday decision making process and in-country experience. Nothing immerses a traveller in their new surroundings like an authentic local dining experience.’

Thirty-four percent said they wanted to ‘eat like a local’ when abroad, and a ‘reliable menu and service’ was found to be the most important factor when choosing where to dine, with 52% choosing this.

Inspiration for your next trip:

Previous surveys by OpenTable also revealed that young Britons don’t know what a sommelier is and explored some of the most bizarre restaurant complaints.

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The post France is Britons’ favourite country to visit for food – survey appeared first on Decanter.

Philipponnat Champagne: For those in-the-know

June 21, 2017 - 7:03am

Read about the history of the Philipponnat Champagne house, including its coveted Clos des Goisses vineyard, and find out which wines our expert, Michael Edwards, rated most highly in a recent tasting hosted by the merchant Justerini & Brooks in London.

Philipponnats have lived around Mareuil-sur-Äy for 500 years. The bijou house dating from 1910 is revered for its 5.5 hectare walled vineyard, Clos des Goisses.

This pre-eminent single vineyard in Champagne produces mainly great Pinot Noir, and a vintage wine from its fruit has been made almost every year for nearly a century.

Goisse in old French means ‘toil’ – apt, as the slopes are very steep at an incline of up to 45%, making them onerous to till in springtime.

Yet this is a dream vineyard overlooking the protective Marne canal, and in the distance the Côte des Blancs.

See all of Decanter’s Philipponnat Champagne reviews here

Facing due-south, its grapes catch the rays of the sun from dawn to dusk, gaining an extra degree of sugar maturity unmatched in the Marne Valley.

The Clos’ wines once overshadowed the other cuvées of the house, but Charles Philipponnat is now making some arresting wines at all price points.

The approach is quite Burgundian, artisanal with a deep feeling for Mareuil’s sturdy terroir.

But the winemaking is very Champenois, displaying the deft art of assemblage. Oak is used judiciously, never obscuring the wines, and partial non-malolactic fermentation ensures freshness.

There’s no formula, each wine made according to the demands of the harvest.

Michael Edwards’ Philipponnat Champagne tasting notes: Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses Jus Rosé, Champagne, 2006

Outstanding rosé from the Clos. An excellent year, ripe and generous. It has a lovely rose petal and salmon colour, with ethereal scents...

Points 96 Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses, Champagne, France, 2007

Subtle, beguiling buttercup colour with gold highlights. A classic cooler vintage with the nuances you'd expect – impressive fruit...

Points 94 Philipponnat, Les Cintres Extra Brut, Champagne, 2006

Pure Pinot Noir from the upper slopes of the Clos. I was impressed with its poise, style and grip. The minerals in the chalky soils add...

Points 93 Philipponnat, Mareuil- sur-Äy, Champagne, France, 2006

Stylish golden hue speaks of ripeness. It has a striking, real sense of Mareuil's place - sturdy but dynamic, poised yet palate filling. Lovely now...

Points 92 Philipponnat, Royale Réserve Non Dosé, Champagne, France

Exactly the same wine as the Royale Réserve Brut but without any dosage. What a difference! While the brut tastes...

Points 90 Philipponnat, Royale Réserve Brut Rosé, Champagne, France

The fuller dosage of 8.5 grams per litre suits the wine well. It's luscious yet refined, with wild strawberry notes. A wine for high summer.

Points 89 Philipponnat, Royale Réserve Brut, Champagne, France

Mainly Pinot Noir, round ripe and rich - a traditional clubman's champagne. Versatile as an aperitif or with food...

Points 88 Related content: Top rated rosé Champagne – Full panel tasting results

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Screw cap wine: 10 top choices

June 21, 2017 - 4:03am

No need for a corkscrew with these top wines...

There’s nothing better than enjoying a glass of wine al fresco in the summer – but what if you forgot to bring a corkscrew to your picnic or barbecue?

Remove that risk by bringing along a screw cap wine instead; we’ve got 10 top choices picked by Decanter experts.

For some time, screw cap wines – or ‘screwcaps’ – were thought of with disdain. But that’s no longer the case. Several ‘New World’ countries, and particularly New Zealand and Australia, have shown that this closure can be used on good quality wines.

See also:

Another way of avoiding the corkscrew dilemma is to choose one of these sparkling wines.

Screw cap wine: 10 top choices Ara, Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2015

This offering is a step above its peers; delightful grapefruit aromas with the classic gooseberry and herbaceous intensity, but very subtle. It is...

Points 89 Yalumba, Eden Valley, Viognier, South Australia, 2016

Platinum: Best Value Australian White Single-Varietal. Toast, butter, peach and nectarine and subtle highlights of rose water...

Points 95 Thelema Mountain Vineyards, Sutherland Chardonnay, 2015

Struck match complexity on the nose, which mingles with green pears and dusty granitic minerality. It is dense, smoky and mineral. Spice and...

Points 96 Winbirri, Bacchus, Norfolk, England, 2015

Platinum - Best in Show: Best Value White Single-Varietal. Complex, oily nose with spice, elderflower and citrus...

Points 95 Colinas de Uruguay, Albariño, Uruguay, 2016

Made in a state of the art sustainable winery that uses gravity fed systems, and favouring the use of wild yeasts to better reflect the terroir. Light aromas of...

Points 88 Camel Valley, Pinot Noir Rosé, Cornwall, England, 2016

Attractive nose with pear drops, crunchy red fruit and some floral elements. Palate is crisp and...

Points 95 Hush Heath, Manor Pinot Noir, Kent, United Kingdom, 2015

English Pinot Noirs take well to light chilling. This highly successful Kentish example has pretty and defined cherry and...

Points 91 Marks & Spencer, Margaret River, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015

Platinum: Best Value Australian Red Bordeaux Varietals. Complex nose of red fruits, violets and vegetal notes...

Points 95 August Kesseler, N Pinot Noir, Rheingau, Germany, 2012

Kesseler makes gorgeous Spätburgunders, and 2012 was a great year for German Pinot; his entry level N Pinot Noir is still going strong. Lively...

Points 92 The Wine Society, Exhibition Hawke's Bay Red, 2014

Very 'old-worldy' nose of cedar and tobacco alongside a touch of garrigue, cassis and plum in the background. Relatively light, but juicy and...

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The post Screw cap wine: 10 top choices appeared first on Decanter.

Most popular Bordeaux wines in the world’s top restaurants

June 21, 2017 - 3:13am

See which Bordeaux wines are most commonly found on menus in 130 of the world's best restaurants, according to research by Wine Lister.

Lynch-Bages is one of the most popular Bordeaux wines on top restaurant lists.

This blog continues to explore some of the findings from the Wine Lister Bordeaux Market Study, by taking a look at global restaurant presence of major châteaux.

A fine wine’s prestige and clout on the international market is demonstrated by its distribution across the world’s top restaurants, hence why this is one criteria that feeds into our Brand score. (Remember that you can read exactly ‘how it works’ on our eponymous page).

The data

More than 130 top restaurants around the world were analysed. Credit: Wine Lister.

As shown in the chart above, sweet white Yquem dominates: just as it did in the 2016 study, now available to all.

Next comes indomitable fifth growth Lynch-Bages – a wine that the trade has cited as one of the best-selling Bordeaux brands – ahead of all the first growths.

Lynch-Bages has overtaken Latour and Margaux since this time last year. Mouton has also moved up the ranks, present in 52% of restaurants surveyed compared to 50% in last year’s analysis.

Meanwhile, Gruaud-Larose is a new entry into the top 15, replacing Montrose.

How was this data compiled?

Restaurants were identified from Michelin-starred restaurants, the 50 Best Restaurants list, and World of Fine Wine Best Wine List restaurants.

The analysis encompassed more than 130 restaurants, spread across six continents, with a relatively even global spread but the majority across Asia, Europe and North America.

This is just a taster of Wine Lister’s 48-page Bordeaux Market Study – subscribers can download the full report from the Analysis page.

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The post Most popular Bordeaux wines in the world’s top restaurants appeared first on Decanter.

Toulouse wine tour: Explore nearby wineries in Gaillac

June 20, 2017 - 8:16am

Just an hour's drive to visit these producers...

Domaine RotierToulouse wine tour: Exploring Gaillac in south-west France Fact file

Planted area (AP) 3,300ha
Production 150,000hl
Main grape varieties Red: Braucol, White: Mauzac
Rare grapes varieties Red: Duras, Prunelard, White: Loin de l’Oeil, Ondenc, Verdanel
Producers 108
Co-ops Two

The vineyards of Gaillac are just an hour from Toulouse, and have been transformed by a new wave of younger winemakers.

Gone are the days of rustic, tannic reds and old fashioned, oxidative whites, and quality is on a steep upward curve, so hopefully we will see more of the crafted, individual wines from this area in the near future.

Where to stay and eat on your visit Domaine Brin

One of the best producers is Damien Bonnet, who has taken over from his parents at Domaine Brin. This estate is focused on an organic and minimalist approach with great results for whites and reds (his sweet wines are also outstanding). Damien’s father is an avid collector of old cars, so expect to see him doing some maintenance when you visit.

Open Monday to Saturday (10am-12am / 2pm-6pm). Closed on Sundays and for bank holidays.

Domaine du Moulin

Back towards Gaillac, drop in to the new tasting room at Domaine du Moulin, where sixth-generation winemaker Nicolas Hirissou is challenging local traditions by planting Tannat vines to complement old-vine Syrah and Braucol (aka Fer Servadou) – the latter one of the main local red varieties.

Open from 9am to 12pm and from 2pm to 7pm. Closed only on Sundays in January, February and March.

Domaine du Moulin Credit: Domaine du Moulin

This article was first published in Decanter magazine: Subscribe here to get the July issue, out now Domaine Plageoles

One of Gaillac’s trump cards is the presence of several rare and exclusive grape varieties. Several have been saved from extinction through the efforts of Domaine Plageoles, which has promoted local terroir through a focus on single, ancient varieties. Visit here to taste the deeply coloured Prunelard (one of the parents of Malbec and unique to Gaillac), which accounts for 1% of red plantings but is growing rapidly. More recently, Plageoles resuscitated Verdanel, a long-lost white grape which only survived at a Montpellier vine library, and is also credited with rescuing Ondenc from extinction – although this variety is found outside Gaillac.

Opening 8am – 12pm and 2.30pm – 6.30pm. Monday to Saturday – Only on RV Sunday morning.

Domaine de la Ramaye. Credit: Domaine de la Ramaye

Domaine de la Ramaye

Gaillac has its fair share of radical winemakers, such as Michel Issaly of Domaine de la Ramaye . At this picturesque estate, the emphasis is on encouraging natural flora and fauna. The wines are thought-provoking as well as high quality. Top of the range is Le Vin de l’Oubli, a product of oxidation and ageing under flor.

Shop open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm. Visit only in the afternoon and by appointment. The domaine is closed on weekends and public holidays.

Domaine d’Escausses

Domaine d’Escausses is closer to Albi, off the main route between the city and the famous hilltop bastide of Cordes-sur-Ciel. At the attractive tasting room, try the méthode gaillacoise sparkling – an ancient form of fizz fermented in one bottle. The best wine here is La Vigne de l’Oubli, an oak-aged, Sauvignon dominated blend that can challenge top white Bordeaux.

Open 9am – 1pm, 2pm – 7pm.

Visiting Domaine Rotier. Credit: Domaine Rotier

Domaine Rotier 

Over on the gravelly soils of the left bank (close to the A68 autoroute) is the consistently excellent Domaine Rotier, where Alain Rotier doesn’t put a foot wrong with any wines in the extensive line-up. He also has a very smart new visitor centre to explore.

Open 9 am – 12 pm, 2pm – 7pm ( 6pm from November to March), every day except on Sundays and holidays. Please call before visiting. 

Getting there: Gaillac is a one hour drive from Toulouse. Fly to Toulouse from London with British Airways, Ryanair or Easyjet, or take the Eurostar from London St Pancras. More travel guides: Top 10 Languedoc wineries to visit

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WoodWinters – Try award-winning sherries this summer

June 20, 2017 - 6:21am

Inverness-based wine store, WoodWinters Wines & Whiskies will be promoting seven winning Sherries from the Decanter World Wine Awards this summer

Located just a stones throw away from the River Ness, WoodWinters boasts an extensive wine list to suit every palate and pocket.

From 19 June to 31 of July WoodWinters will be promoting a special selection of award-winning sherries from this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards. Customers will have the chance to buy these fantastic wines and receive double loyalty points on every purchase.

Purchase the below award-winning wines and receive double loyalty points this summer:

Quick – don’t miss out an opportunity to taste some of Spain’s finest sherries!

Promotional period: Ends 31 July 2017
Address: Bow Court, 74 Church Street, Inverness,  IV1 1HB

The post WoodWinters – Try award-winning sherries this summer appeared first on Decanter.

Delicious Alsace white wines under £20

June 20, 2017 - 6:00am

Alsace isn't just about the grand crus - there are also plenty of delicious wines under £20 that deserve a spot in your wine rack. Here's a few to get you started.

The unique history of Alsace, to-ing and fro-ing between German and French control, has left its legacy. It’s a French region with a uniquely Teutonic feel – even the wine bottles share the distinct shape of their German cousins across the Rhine.

More than 90% of wines produced in Alsace are white, ranging from lean, mineral Riesling to perfumed, exotic Gewürztraminer. Decanter’s Jane Anson believes that Alsace should be a natural homeland for terroir-driven white wines in France.

Here are some of our top recommendations for everyday wines that won’t break the bank.

Delicious Alsace white wines under £20 :
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Zind, Alsace, France, 2014

This blend of Chardonnay and Auxerrois grapes grown in the famed Clos Windsbuhl vineyard sits outside of appellation regulations, which...

Points 91 Trimbach, Riesling, Alsace, France, 2014

Perhaps most representative of Trimbach's house style, this Riesling is wonderfully dry and crisp, with green apple and citrus flavours swiftly followed by...

Points 90 Zinck, Portrait Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France, 2015

This wine has a glorious nose of lychee, rosewater and stone fruit. Incredibly aromatic and intense, the palate follows the nose, with a...

Points 90 Jean Biecher, Pinot Blanc, Alsace, France, 2015

One of the largest organic producers in Alsace, Jean Biecher is also one of the oldest having been founded in 1776. This Pinot Blanc has...

Points 89 Dopff au Moulin, Crémant d’Alsace, Cuvée Julien Brut

Behind this unpromising label you will find a rather delicious wine. Floral aromas give way to ripe peach and pear fruit, along with a...

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The post Delicious Alsace white wines under £20 appeared first on Decanter.