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Great value wines for the weekend under £20

20 hours 2 min ago

Try a lighter red this January, from Beaujolais to Blaufränkisch – find your favourite in our selection below. All rated by the experts and under £20...

Great value wines under £20

.We’ve collected lighter reds from around the world, choose from from well-known favourites like Pinot Noir and Beaujolais – or try under the radar reds like Austrian Blaufränkisch and Italian Lambrusco…

Find your favourite in the top 10 wines in the collection below…

Each week we bring you new wines, so you can branch out from your usual choices, without breaking the bank – especially if you’re one of the wine drinkers who stick to the same wine for a decade.

Don’t forget to also look at our selection of supermarket wines.

 

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The making of Montalcino

January 18, 2018 - 8:51am

Should Brunello be made more like a Burgundy or a Bordeaux? Producers have tried both approaches over the years, says Monty Waldin, but have now acquired the knowledge and confidence to plough their own furrow...

Tenute Silvio Nardi's Manarchiara vineyards, with Montalcino in the distance.

When I first visited Montalcino more than a decade ago, I felt Italy’s flagship region was trying to imitate two of my old stamping grounds: California and Bordeaux.

Plucking leaves from around ripening Sangiovese bunches to create Brunellos with exotic, California-style ripeness was in vogue. But it left the vines looking like they’d had an extreme bikini-line wax. And exposing Sangiovese’s sensitive skins to the full glare of the Mediterranean sun risked vaporising its savoury sour cherry flavours into baked jam.

Monty Waldin is a widely published wine writer, author and DWWA Regional Chair for Tuscany
Related content:

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Hunter Valley wineries to visit

January 18, 2018 - 8:30am

The appeal of the Hunter Valley is broad, says Mike Bennie, who picks some of the top wineries to visit...

Tyrrell's vineyardsHunter Valley wineries to visit

More than 150 wineries and inviting cellar doors punctuate meandering country drives, offering a broad spectrum from cosy boutique tasting rooms to state-of-the-art facilities.

Alongside the wine offering, there are world-class golf courses, varied dining opportunities, pastoral drives, hiking, cheese and chocolate tastings, breweries, distilleries and adventure activities.

Travel distances are typically short drives – manageable by bicycle in some cases.

Getting there: The Hunter Valley is a 2.5-hour drive from Sydney airport; otherwise, Pokolbin is an hour’s drive from Newcastle airport.

Where to eat and drink in Sydney Tyrrell’s

No visit to the Hunter Valley should exclude a visit to Tyrrell’s. Here, living history is writ large from the first breach of the driveway. The bitumen road to the cellar door is flanked by some of the Hunter Valley’s oldest vines – the landmark wines 4 Acres and Vat 9 find their genesis in these storied vineyards. The 140-plus-year-old plots are an easy stroll from the winery car park, and a must-see for wine enthusiasts.

Tyrrell’s conducts a cellar tour and tasting, which is also not to be missed – visitors are able to tread the dirt floors that six generations of the family have walked, and visit the old, large-format barrel cellar that houses Tyrrell’s flagship wines for maturation.

Mount Pleasant

A visit to the charming Mount Pleasant cellar door makes for a neat pairing in the historical stakes. The McWilliam family is custodian of this great estate, which was home to arguably Australia’s most significant winemaker, Maurice O’Shea. He established Mount Pleasant in 1921, partnering with the McWilliams in the 1930s to expand vineyard holdings.

O’Shea’s wines are still renowned for their longevity, with wines from the 1940s and early 1950s considered some of Australia’s greatest and most sought-after. The current suite of wines from Mount Pleasant, under the guidance of the multi-awarded winemaker Jim Chatto, are heading on a similar trajectory.

Mount Pleasant

Thomas Wines

Andrew Thomas of the eponymous Thomas Wines dazzled the Australian wine community with his pristine Semillons and inky Shiraz releases from single vineyards.

His departure in style, and yet myopic adherence to the Hunter Valley’s calling-card grape varieties, is one of the great stories of the Hunter’s recent wine history.

Thommo, as he’s known, is often found outside his sleek cellar door, cigarette and beer in hand, ready for a chat about his wines.

He’s one of the great winemakers, and characters, of the Hunter Valley.

De Iuliis

Nearby you’ll find his contemporary, Mike De Iuliis, a second-generation wine-grower of Italian background; his De Iuliis’ cellar door  blends modern styling and rustic charm.

The architect-designed tasting room is bathed in natural light, with a backdrop of native fauna framing the space. Wines here follow both the cutting-edge and more traditional line, with tannin-driven Nebbiolo and crunchy blends of Shiraz and Touriga Nacional sitting alongside the regional stalwarts of single-vineyard Shiraz and fine-boned Semillon.

Tastings here are completed with a visit to the intriguingly named Two Fat Blokes Gourmet Kitchen, which specialises in cheese and charcuterie.

Krinklewood 

Rod and Pete Windrim are a father-son wine-growing operation, and the region’s leading biodynamic farmers. Their homely cellar door is a neat counterpoint to much of the Hunter’s rising architectural glamour.

Brokenwood

Brokenwood

Go for a late-afternoon appointment at Brokenwood, which has a compelling offering in both local wines and those from elsewhere in Australia.

Small Winemakers Centre

Alternatively, call in to the neighbouring collective of wine producers at Small Winemakers Centre , which gives voice to those without resource for a cellar-door operation of their own.

Innovative, new-to-Hunter Valley grape varieties, expressive blends and a youthful enthusiasm are driving a new generation of Hunter Valley wine producers.

The Hunter Valley offers something for every globetrotting wine lover: the luxurious and the homely; the historic and modern; and, above all, truly world-class wines.

Originally published in the January 2018 issue of Decanter. Edited for Decanter.com by Ellie Douglas. 

Mike Bennie is a wine writer, editor-at-large of Australian reviews site www.winefront.com.au, and co-founder of Sydney’s Rootstock festival.

Find more Decanter travel guides here. 

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How to taste gin like a professional

January 18, 2018 - 5:00am

A gin boom has seen the number of UK distilleries more than double in the last five years, to 315, with 49 new distillers starting up in 2017, according to customs figures released this week. But how much do you know about tasting gin? Amy Wislocki asked experts for some pointers...

Forget the highball glass for gin & tonic, you need something like this.

Sometimes a refreshing gin & tonic is the perfect way to celebrate finishing a hard day, and there has never been more choice in the UK.

Even English wineries are getting involved, with Chapel Down recently launching a grape-based gin and Foxhole Spirits based at Bolney Estate, although operated as a separate business.

But how do you taste gin in the best way to appreciate its character and complexity? We spoke to three people working for premium gin brands to get their advice.

The glass

First, the glass. The traditional highball, it seems, just doesn’t cut the mustard – it’s the equivalent of the notorious Paris goblet in the wine world.

There’s a move towards using the copa, popularised in Spain, as it allows more room for swirling and sniffing.

Tom Warner of  brand Warner Edwards, favours a large red wine glass for drinking his G&T.

‘You still get enough volume for ice, gin and tonic, but for me it provides a better drinking experience in terms of aroma and flavour,’ he said.

Don’t make yourself nose blind

When sampling gin, nose and taste it first at room temperature, and neat.

‘It will allow the nuances of the gin to be most apparent, though it will mean the alcohol will feel at its most powerful,’ said Brockmans UK brand ambassador Mike Whatmough. ‘But always sip, don’t shoot – take your time.’

‘Over-sniffing neat samples can lead to you going “nose blind” though, so make sure you give your nose a break,’ warned Warner, who also advocates doing this before you add tonic.

What to look for on the palate

‘Gin tends to be powerfully flavoured, so there’s no need to draw air through the liquid to your palate, but rolling the spirit around your mouth to coat it before swallowing will enable you to fully taste it.’

‘In a similar way to wine tasting, on both nose and palate you are looking for balance (in this case, between botanicals), length and complexity,’ said Whatmough.

‘You should have a journey between the top and bottom notes. Well crafted, well distilled gin should be smooth when tasted neat, with the warmth felt in your chest and not under your eyes! Then how does it mix with tonic? Are the botanicals overwhelmed by quinine or do they mix perfectly to give a rounded, refreshing drink?’

Dominic Limberry, of D1 London Gin, said that you should be looking for a clean flavour profile where you can set apart the botanical components. A high quality base spirit will provide a clear background; a “burn” on the palate is indicative of lower-quality spirit.

If you’re tasting with tonic, Limberry recommends low-calorie tonic: ‘It takes a back seat,’ he said. ‘The sugar in full-fat tonic can suppress the flavour profile.’

 

Do it yourself

A good way of holding your own tasting would be to get a range of gins with different botanical mixes.

It is becoming increasingly common in the ‘craft’ gin movement for distillers to publish details about the botanicals used, even if the precise recipes remain secret.

You can then experiment with garnishes that work well with the botanicals in a particular gin.

 

Amy Wislocki attended the  2017 Telegraph Gin Experience at Kensington Roof Gardens in London for this article.

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Chateau Musar – Defying time

January 18, 2018 - 3:08am

Decanter's Christelle Guibert attended the Musar masterclass at November's Decanter Fine Wine Encounter, tasting wines stretching back to 1974...

Marc Hochar hosts the Musar masterclass at 2017's Decanter Fine Wine Encounter.

Wine has been made in Lebanon for more than 6,000 years, but in the modern era its wines were unheard of on the international wine scene – until the pioneering work of Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar.

Over the course of a winemaking career spanning more than fifty years, and undeterred by the backdrop of the 15 year Lebanese war (1975-1990), Serge produced a series of stellar wines, transforming the profile of the country in the process.

Scroll down to see Christelle’s tasting notes from the masterclass

Musar’s story begins in the 1920s, when Serge’s father, Gaston, left for France to study medicine and in the process discovered a real love for wine.

Upon his return in 1930 he founded Chateau Musar. When his son Serge took over in 1959, winemaking remained the same – a non-interventionist ‘natural’ style, vinified with wild yeasts and using minimal sulphur. All now very fashionable, but back then natural wine was unheard of.

The concept of blending

When Gaston Hochar started out he had no red grapes, as phylloxera had ravaged them all, and the only grapes left were white.

However, a friendship with Major Ronald Barton of châteaux Leoville and Langoa-Barton, in Bordeaux, inspired him to plant Cabernet Sauvignon.

As Serge’s son, Marc, admitted, ‘Cabernet has a masculine structure; we use Cabernet but we want to hide it. When it is young, it has too much tannin and it stays on the fruit for a very long time, so you have to wait many years before it can develop. But you need Cabernet for the ageing ability’.

With 300 hours of sunshine a year, he also needed a grape resistant to heat, and so Gaston introduced Cinsault, which brings a floral element to the blend.

It is these two grape varieties that form the base of all the red wines produced here.

Continue reading below Chateau Musar wines at the masterclass:

The evolution of the whites is particularly clear to see.

Divisive

Chateau Musar makes characterful and distinctive wines, whose style can divide opinions. The wines are made naturally, often with high levels of volatile acidity and/or brett, which can be seen as an imperfection for some or as a living element for others.

They can differ immensely from vintage to vintage too: some years, such as 1999, can bring to mind Bordeaux, while other years, such as 1974, are more Burgundian. Yet others are reminiscent of northern Rhône.

During the 1960s, Serge kept back 50% of the production; he already knew they had the potential to age incredibly well, and today Chateau Musar has stock of well over one million bottles in their cellars in Ghazir.

These are legendary wines, born in a country which, for Marc, ‘is not part of the new world or the old world, but part of the ancient world’.

Related content:

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Anson: Jesse Katz – Remember the name

January 18, 2018 - 1:08am

Jane Anson meets a hotly tipped young winemaker who has already produced one of the most expensive wines in the world.

Jesse Katz hard at work.

In recent years, the world’s most expensive wines have included a bottle of Château Margaux 1787, which you might remember was valued at $225,000 after being spilled by wine merchant William Sokolin at the Four Seasons hotel in New York, a 1947 Cheval Blanc that was auctioned in Geneva for $305,000, and an Imperial (six litres) of 1992 Screaming Eagle that went for $500,000 back in 2008.

In November of last year, a new wine leapt on to this list. Not a Bordeaux First Growth, or a Napa superstar, but a single bottle of an unknown wine from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley – specifically a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend called The Setting, that was sold for $350,000.

An new contender for ‘world’s most expensive wine’. Credit: Supplied by Jesse Katz

It was sold, admittedly, during the Carnivale du Vin’s charity auction (similar to the Screaming Eagle that managed its $500,000 during the Napa Valley Wine Auction), which changes the dynamics of pricing. And no doubt its attraction can be partly explained by the fact that it was donated and signed by Shep Gordon, the ultimate celebrity agent who has been described as Supermensch in Mike Myers’ 2013 documentary, ‘the most famous unfamous man in the world’ by GQ and ‘the godfather of everything’ by Rolling Stone.

But the wine’s success was also, in no small part, due to its winemaker Jesse Katz. He’s not as well known in Europe as in the States, but it’s only a matter of time. Barely into his 30s, Katz was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in 2014, at the age of 29, four years after he became America’s youngest head winemaker (24 at time of hiring) for Lancaster Estate in Alexander Valley – ironically after a 16-month stint at Screaming Eagle. This was partly what had got him the Forbes nod, the first winemaker to do so in their Food and Drink awards, because he had managed to grow Lancaster’s Roth brand by over 800 per cent in five years – and also seen the $28 Roth Pinot Noir take first place in a blind tasting of over 80 pinots from Burgundy, Oregon, New Zealand and California at the annual Pigs & Pinot celebration in Healdsburg.

I first met Katz in Bordeaux back in March 2016, when I was working on a book with his photographer father Andy Katz. He was over here taking a course on terroir and vineyard management with Professor Kees van Leeuwen at Bordeaux university (and had previously done a stint working at Petrus), and we shared a pot of Earl Grey tea at the Grand Hotel. Or maybe I drank tea and he drank cocktails with his dad, that part I don’t quite remember.

What I do remember is getting to taste his Devil Proof Malbec later that week, and thinking he had pretty much nailed what can be an extremely difficult grape to tease elegance out of. And then meeting him again in New York and witnessing the pretty mensch-like reaction that he gets when he walks in a room. The kind of reaction that is accorded to just a few winemakers; I can think of Christophe Salin, for one, Angelo Gaja certainly, Peter Gago… there are others, but you can count them on one hand.

So, the news of his latest success left me wondering if the pressure was going to get too much. Where will he go from creating one of the world’s most expensive wines?

It seems the answer to that lies in finding something that is entirely his own. Until this year, Katz has been making an array of wines (three of his own labels in the shape of Aperture, Devil Proof and Aesthete, along with almost a dozen wines for other people, from Shep Gordon to Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel), working across four different locations. In 2019, he will be opening – along with his dad and business partner Andy – Aperture Cellars winery, on 40 acres of land that he purchased two miles outside of Healdsburg, with 32 acres of vines. All of his wines will be made in this one location, where he will also live.

‘The buzz that came with The Setting,’ he says, ‘just proved what I always believed about Sonoma. That it is capable to making some of the truly great wines of the world’.

Living and working in one place – essentially the domaine or chateau model – also takes him back to where wine really began for Katz, which was in Burgundy. He grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and had apparently visited 80 countries alongside his dad by the time he left school. The first wine trip was to Napa and Sonoma when Andy was writing a book on the then-fledgling regions with Robert Mondavi, but it was in Burgundy on another book trip that he really fell in love with wine.

‘I had become friends with Olivier Leflaive,’ Andy tells me, ‘and he had these two beautiful daughters who were a little older than Jesse, who was maybe 14 at the time. I pretty much didn’t see him for two days, and when he came back he said, ‘dad this wine thing is amazing’.’

‘I had a profound realisation while in Burgundy,’ says Jesse, good-naturedly picking up the story that he has no doubt heard recounted many times, ‘that the same grape and same vintage could have such different expressions according to the village that it came from. I fell in love with the culture of the whole thing’.

‘Today I get that same feeling of diversity in Sonoma. It is such a special place, with masses of options for a winemaker, microclimates ranging from colder-than-Champagne to warmer-than-Bordeaux, with a great diversity of soils. We’re 25 years behind Napa in terms of site selection in Sonoma, which means there is still lots of untapped land and potential – it’s really an evolving art. Pinot producers have seen that, and we are just starting to witness the high-end Cabernet producers moving in also to places like Alexander Valley (where Katz makes Devil Proof at SJ Ranch), with its well-drained red volcanic soils and low organic matter. We get warm days there but really cool nights with a fog line that has cleared by 8am allowing the days to heat up fast. It gives powerful but fresh wines that I love’.

It’s going to be tough to get Aperture and Devil Proof wines for a while – these are small batch and they sell out quickly (he calls them ‘small brands that work hard’). But they are worth searching out, combining as they do the best of the Old and New World, delivering a powerful punch but well sculpted with natural balance and no acidification or other cellar tricks. The Malbecs are dry-farmed, the Cabernets as close as he can get them, everything bottled unfiltered and unfined.

‘I want to keep showcasing what we can do here, keep pushing the sense of place and the importance of site selection’.

This is a winemaker who’s just getting started.

Read more Jane Anson columns on Decanter.com

 

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Cos d’Estournel to launch luxury ‘COS100’ wine

January 17, 2018 - 8:00am

Bordeaux second growth Château Cos d'Estournel is set to release a new cuvée this year.

The new COS100 from the Bordeaux 2015 vintage.

The new wine, named COS100, is made from a parcel of 100 year-old Merlot vines planted at Cos d’Estournel by women during the First World War.

The wine, named ‘COS100’, comes from the Bordeaux 2015 vintage and will only be available in large format bottles.

Only 100 double magnums (3 litres) and 10 balthazars (12 litres) were bottled – by hand – from two barrels.

‘With COS100, I want to pay tribute to the terroir, and to acknowledge the women who, more than a hundred years ago, courageously worked in the vineyard to ensure the continuity of the estate,’ Cos d’Estournel owner and businessman Michel Reybier was quoted as saying in French financial paper Les Echos.

In 1915, most male vineyard workers were fighting or had died on the Western Front during the First World War.

According to Les Echos, two balthazars of the cuvee will be up for grabs at Sotheby’s auctions in New York and Hong Kong on 28 February.

A further two double magnums and elephant scultpures will also be for sale.

All money gained from the lots will go to Elephant Family, a charity that protects Asian elephants and their habitat.

The elephant forms part of the Château’s brand image.

The château – considered by many industry commentators to be part of a handful of top-quality “super second” growth producers – was built with an oriental twist.

It’s original owner, Gaspard d’Estournel, was known as the ‘Maharajah of St-Estèphe’. He founded the estate in 1811.

Further bottles of COS100 will be available through the château’s website. Prices were available to customers on request, the estate said. 

Coming soon: Decanter Premium members will be able to see Jane Anson’s tasting note for COS100. 

See Jane Anson’s ratings for Bordeaux 2015 Médoc wines in the bottle

 

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30 great New World buys under £30

January 16, 2018 - 10:22am

We asked Peter Richards MW to scour the New World regions and pick out the best value wines he’s come across of late. The resulting selection reveals some of the most intriguing, exciting and mould-breaking winemaking in the world today.

What defines ‘New World’? And what do we as wine lovers want and expect of it? These two questions merit pondering because the answers aren’t obvious and they challenge a fair few preconceptions.

Of course, on one level, the New World is all those territories outside Europe. But what about China, home to some of the most ancient civilisations on earth? The Middle East would seem to be in some sort of limbo territory.

Parts of South America have been making wine since the mid-16th century, many years longer than the grand châteaux of the Médoc. And then there are areas within the Old World that seem decidedly new wave…

In the end, I decided to keep things simple.

I compiled a shortlist (in reality not far off 200 wines) culled from well over 1,000 potential options tasted recently, and then whittled them down – agonisingly – to end up with this list of delectables. The focus was dry whites and reds under £30 (but the odd fizz and sweet has inevitably crept in) and I’ve tried to cover a range of price points, retailers, geographies and vintages.

For all of these wines I have been subservient to one overriding selection criterion: excitement. Wines that quicken the pulse. If the New World can be characterised by an emotion rather than geography, it is surely this: an exhilarating sense of discovery. The New World, remember, has liberty on its side. Freedom from history, tradition, rules and red tape… Anything goes.

So surely the one thing these wines should deliver is a real thrill, the elation of the new. That was what I sought in each and every one of these wines – and found it in abundance.

‘If the New World can be characterised by an emotion, it is surely an exhilarating sense of discovery’

Because, of course, there were far more wines that I wanted to include. There has never been a better time to drink New World wines.

The era of over-exuberance and a misplaced eagerness to please distant critics or markets seems, thankfully, to be coming to an end. All around the New World, forward-thinking producers are focusing on what makes their wines unique and different rather than predictable and uniform.

The confidence and excitement is palpable. Many of these wines veer into what might be termed ‘natural’ territory. I’m a cheery agnostic on this subject – I just want wines to refresh, delight and inform me. Life is too short for tedium or repetitious experiences.

So enjoy these 30 delicious, great-value wines with this simple aim in mind.

 

 

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The risk-takers: The realities of buying a vineyard

January 16, 2018 - 5:41am

Giving up the daily grind to make wine in idyllic surroundings sounds like living the dream, but what are the realities? Anne Krebiehl MW meets several 'renegades' who halted other careers to pursue winemaking...

Kutch vineyards in Sonoma.

They risked it all in order to make wine; they made sacrifices and struggled through. They are living proof that change is possible.

Each is as different as they come – the only thing they all have in common is energy, imagination and an appetite for risk and hard work.

 

SEE ALSO How to buy a vineyard – all you need to know Jefford: Why I’m not a wine-grower Anson: What it costs to buy a Bordeaux château  Ray Nadeson, Lethbridge Wines, Victoria, Australia

Former scientists Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson in the barrel room at Lethbridge Wines.

Ray Nadeson, 52, has a PhD in neuroscience, then tasting countless wines had piqued his interest.

‘But I wasn’t going to be a doctor one moment and then a winemaker, with no transition, so my wife and I got a degree in winemaking [while continuing to work]. Not because you need it to make wine, you don’t, but we wanted to have street cred.’

Nadeson continued in his day job for eight years while they were establishing the winery.

‘I wanted to do every aspect of what it takes, and the last thing I wanted was to employ a winemaker. But I couldn’t do both jobs. So 14 years ago I decided to become a full-time winemaker. It was a huge decision. You leave a job that is secure and well-paid to do something you have no track record in at all.’

But Nadeson is honest: ‘Lethbridge didn’t make any money for years. I had to make contract wine, consult and do other things to smooth out the cash flow. We didn’t come into the business with a whole heap of money. But even though we didn’t make a lot, we existed.’

 

Read the full article in the February 2018 issue of Decanter, or for Decanter Premium members.  Vicki Samaras and Jonas Newman, Hinterland Wine Company, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada

Jonas Newman and Vicki Samaras. Credit: Johnny C Y Lam.

Newman was a maître d’ at a Toronto restaurant and Samaras worked in the pharmaceutical industry. They were both 27 and each had dreams of owning a vineyard. Upon meeting they bought land together.

They financed this by doing up Toronto properties before selling them and trading up. They also got a state-backed agricultural loan and planted their first 3.5ha of vines in 2004.

‘We wanted to make wine that was good every year, because we have to pay our bills. We had that pressure on us, in an unproven wine region,’ Samaras emphasises.

‘We didn’t really know how to farm or to change oil on a tractor,’ confesses Newman. ‘Conceptually we understood it, but practically we had no idea what we were doing. Thankfully we were young enough to take the risk.’

Samaras agrees: ‘We really believe strongly in due diligence. It was risky, but I did my research. We really wanted to have autonomy and we had a tiny, tiny budget,’ she adds, ‘but I don’t know how we did it.’

 

Jamie Kutch, Kutch Wines, Sonoma, California, USA

Jamie Kutch keeps a close eye on his crop during harvest time at Kutch Wines

‘I was a Nasdaq trader for Merrill Lynch,’ said Kutch. ‘But I don’t think I would have succeeded had I not gone to Wall Street first and seen what you become with just the drive to make more money.’

‘Now I’m making a tangible product. Now I get a text message on Christmas from a customer saying “I’m enjoying this with my family”. That’s a massive reward.’

When he first went to the West Coast, he’d never worked in farming or winemaking. ‘I had no family here, no friends, got on a plane with one suitcase.’

He admits he thought ‘it would be easier than it is’, and he still has to ‘work very hard to sell 3,000 cases of wine’, but he never regretted his decision for a second.

‘My friends still working on Wall Street live in multi-million-dollar homes; we rent. They drive Ferraris, I’ve got a Honda. But the experiences I have are richer.’

Corrado Dottori, La Distesa, Cupramontana, Marche, Italy

Corrado Dottori with his wife Valeria in their Marche vineyards. Credit: Paula Prandini.

‘I was trading in stocks,’ said.  Corrado Dottori. His father’s family had owned vineyards in Marche since 1935 but, like many of his generation, they sought a more sophisticated life in the city.

All of the land was leased to farmers, but they slowly started retiring and Dottori either had to find someone to look after the land or sell it.

The property he moved to was run down – he had just one hectare of vines, so he and Valeria opened a B&B, which was their only income stream for a while. But money did not bother him.

‘Even so, the first four or five years were very hard.’ He now owns 7ha of vines and also grows olives and wheat for a local pasta cooperative.

 

Urban Kaufmann, Weingut Kaufmann, Hattenheim, Rheingau, Germany

Former cheesemaker Urban Kaufmann with Eva Raps in Rheingau. Credit: Friedrich Spitzbart

Becoming a cheesemaker, he says, was not an unusual choice of profession in rural Switzerland. In his former life he had it made: he ran a successful cheese dairy making Appenzeller.

However, moonlighting throughout 2012 in a Swiss winery clinched it: he decided to buy a wine estate.

There were ‘a thousand reasons’ not to do it, but he could not let go of his dream. ‘Giving up something existing and well-run for the big unknown, leaving your own country…’

Finding an estate that was both affordable and a going concern was a challenge, looking for property first in Italy, then in Austria and Germany.

Getting to grips with the different aspects of a working winery was hard. But, ‘the chaos was perfect,’ Kaufmann said.

Alie Shaper, Brooklyn Oenology, Long Island, New York, US

Alie Shaper makes her Brooklyn Oenolgy wines on Long Island. Credit: David Benthal Photography.

Shaper has an engineering degree and comes from a family of engineers, and she worked in Silicon Valley in 1996, in the aerospace industry.

Looking for a change, Shaper answered an ad for tasting room staff at a Hudson Valley winery, which morphed into working in a New York City tasting room. More jobs in wine followed, along with WSET courses.

‘It was like this rebirth of making in Brooklyn. You don’t have to own land to own a winery. I just kept turning it over in my head. How would I accomplish this?’

A year later she quit her distributing job, but wanted to get wine production experience. She worked at at a custom-crush facility on Long Island, and the experience was invaluable.

However, ‘every case we sell, we have to fight for. I didn’t expect that.’

‘That transition can be really hard. It tests your resolve, your persistence and your creativity. You bear a lot of responsibility.’

See our expert advice on how to buy a vineyard

 

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Vegan trend raises questions for wine

January 16, 2018 - 1:53am

Veganism is going mainstream and early signs suggest that wine could be one of the focal points for debate in 2018.

The UK’s Co-op retailer has said it plans to expand its vegan wine range to 100 labels this year and has challenged all of its wine suppliers ‘to make wines vegan where they can’.

Rival retailer Majestic Wine has added vegan and vegetarian symbols to the wine information on its relaunched website.

‘Vegan wines will not have been fined, filtered or come into contact with anything derived from an animal or dairy source,’ a Majestic spokesperson told Decanter.com. There were 32 vegan wines on the retailer’s website, although this varies month-to-month.

A view of Majestic’s new website, which tells shoppers whether a wine is vegan or not. Credit: Majestic Wine.

There are at least 542,000 people following a vegan diet in the UK, versus 150,000 10 years ago, according to the Vegan Society.

‘Veganuary’ has become one of the buzzwords of the season, backed by celebrities. Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron and long-time vegan Pamela Anderson are executive producers on a documentary about plant-based diets called Game Changers, to be released at the Sundance Film Festival on 19 January.

All of this has the potential to stir up debate about the identity of vegan wines and why some do not make the grade.

It could also re-kindle discussion around disclosure on wine labels.

Traditional fining agents, such as egg whites or casein, are used by some wineries to clarify finished wines, but there is currently no legal requirement to state this on labels in the European Union or US.

From the archive: Andrew Jefford talks about disclosure of additives in wine

‘I suspect that quite a lot of wine is vegan but the producer doesn’t necessarily put it on the label,’ said Kristin Syltevik, of the Oxney Organic Estate in East Sussex, England.

‘Traditional fining products that were egg/fish/milk derived have probably – we think – moved on to a lot of vegetable-based products.’

Some producers choose not to ‘fine’ their wines at all.

In terms of alternatives, some research work has focused on wheat-based fining agents, but the presence of gluten could be an issue and subsequent work has targeted pea and potato-derived products.

Tony Milanowski, a lecturer in wine production at Plumpton College in the UK, said that the issue also goes beyond fining.

He told Decanter.com, ‘Veganism is a broad church because people do it for dietary, ethical and/or environmental concerns.

‘Many vegans have stricter interpretations and would look to avoid beeswax (used to seal bottles) and agglomerated corks (which use milk-based glues), while others are not interested in these concerns [because the animal derivatives are not considered to be in the finished product].’

Unfined and unfiltered biodynamic wines may still fail some vegans’ethical standards depending upon the source of manure and animal parts (skulls, horns and organs) used in the vineyard, he added.

Additional editing by Chris Mercer.

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Jefford on Monday: To cru or not to cru

January 15, 2018 - 2:47am

Priorat is going for it; Sancerre is holding back. Andrew Jefford considers the two approaches.

Vineyards in Priorat, where winemakers are mapping out a new 'cru' system.

Driving licence, passport, voting card: these are the familiar symbols of human adulthood.  Might, though, wine regions come of age?  If so, what would symbolize that?

If my recent travels are a guide, many wine regions only consider themselves adult when they can boast a cru system of their own.  When, in other words, certain zones, villages or vineyards are plucked from the mass for elevation: the badge, it’s felt, of a ‘real region’.

Burgundy’s famous pyramid (regional appellations, village appellations, Premiers Crus and finally Grands Crus) often glimmers, grail-like, as the model to follow, despite the fact that it is too elaborate for most regions.  This is, nonetheless, the route that Priorat intends to follow: the first Spanish region to embrace internal classification to that extent.  (See the end of this blog for a full description of the proposed system for Priorat.)  France’s Sancerre, by contrast, has often considered the institution of a cru system, but so far has held back.  Why?  What’s at stake?  What are the pros and cons?

The view from Priorat

The Priorat DOCa regional chairman, Salus Álvarez, gave me a practical justification for the region’s pursuit of its new system.  “We have a lot of small cellars producing just 40-50,000 bottles a year,” he said.  “We have to find a way for them to make a living, and the best solution is a focus on terroir.   Moreover it is easy for us to do that, as we have no large producers here to placate.  But we realize that total traceability of every product in every year is vital.  We have invested a lot in that; it was only because we are so tiny that it was possible.  Wine is a product which can take the name of your vineyard all over the world, with all the prestige and renown which goes with that.  That’s what we need.  It means that a small grower can then live from a few hectares of low-yielding vines.”

Opinions about the merits of the system in Priorat are mixed.  Some, like Jordi Vidal of La Conreria, were firmly in favour of it: “there are some vineyards here that just have to be made alone.  The only challenge is that it takes 20 years to discover where they are.”  Others, though broadly welcoming, had reservations.  “A Grand Cru for a Garnatxa will never be the same as a Grand Cru for a Carinyena,” pointed out Sara Pérez of Mas Martinet.  “I’ve worked with fruit from different villages,” says Sandra Doix of Mas Doix, “and it’s true that there are differences.  But what really matters is the winemaker’s spirit, and you can’t regulate for that.” “We need more time,” suggests Pérez.  “For me, it’s a copy of other regions.  It needs to reflect our reality, or it will never be true.”

The view from Sancerre

The quality revolution is so recent in Priorat that you could argue, with Pérez, that the institution of such a detailed system is premature – yet the experience of Sancerre, in fact, suggests the opposite: that early legislation is desirable.  “The question of crus has been posed many times,” Alphonse Mellot Jnr told me recently.  “But we all work very well together in the region at present, and if you introduce a cru system that will no longer be true.”  Luc Prieur made the point more forcefully.  “A vineyard isn’t just a vineyard; it’s also the man or woman who looks after it.  If you classify now, you will write a huge cheque to people who never worked hard, who never did anything for the region, whereas some of those who have worked very hard may get nothing at all.”  With hindsight, the 1950s might have been the perfect period to classify Sancerre’s best sites, since the stakes were much lower then.  The stakes are now so high that instituting a cru system faces the ultimate political challenge: that of mollifying losers as well as rewarding winners.  This, of course, is why expanding Champagne’s growing zone is such a headache, and why the regular revisions of St Emilion’s classification system chiefly benefits lawyers.

There are other reasons, too, to believe that the existing use of lieu-dit names on labels may actually be more beneficial in practical terms to Sancerre than a fully-fledged, legally sanctified cru system, as an outstanding 2017 Master of Wine dissertation paper, that of Catherine Petrie M.W. of the UK merchant Goedhuis, makes clear (see the end of this blog for details).

Petrie looked at three lieux-dits in particular, Les Monts Damnés, Les Culs de Beaujeu and Chêne Marchand, and showed that wine from these sites enjoyed a price uplift of between 59 per cent (Chêne Marchand) and 95 per cent (Culs de Beaujeu) in the 2014 vintage, even without the benefit of official cru status.  Over a five-year period, the price uplift for the three lieu-dit wines was 14 per cent, compared to 10 per cent for ‘ordinary’ Sancerre.  Since the lieu-dit wines are on steep slopes, they have a lower average yield than ordinary Sancerre, but Petrie shows that even in terms of euros per hectare they still achieved between 40 per cent (Chêne Marchard) and 80 per cent (Culs de Beaujeu) price uplift in 2014.

Now consider what might change were an official cru system to be instituted.  Petrie uses Alsace as analogy, where the Grand Cru regulations require a maximum yield 31 per cent or 25 hl/ha lower than for AOP Alsace; she also shows that the cru systems of Quarts de Chaume, Coteaux du Layon, Cairanne and Chablis, as well as the proposed system for Pouilly-Fuissé, require lower yields.  (As, by the way, does Priorat’s system – see the end of this blog.)  Were Sancerre to adopt reductions similar to those which operate in Alsace, the price uplift would fall to just 17 per cent: a considerable disincentive to classifying.

There may be other advantages to the existing system, too.  At the moment, lieu-dit names can be used providing they exist in the local land register (le cadastre) and the grower can prove traceability.  This is administered under the code rural by local customs officers but not, significantly, enforced by the INAO; it is, in effect, optional. Grower honesty is therefore paramount since, as Petrie points out, the dishonest might “flout this requirement without reprisal”.  The situation is even more fluid when it comes to the entirely unregulated use of terroir terms like ‘silex’ (flint) or ‘caillottes’ (limestone pebbles).  As Petrie once again points out, silex “is the least dominant of the major soil types in the region”, but it is also “clearly the most popular soil name used” in this way.  Classification would require rules, with inspection and justification; not every grower would welcome this.

It’s also possible that classification may not aid comprehension

Salus Álvarez made the point that classification fosters the global esteem of a region, and helps consumers to understand a region’s nuances.  Sancerre, though, already enjoys enviable global esteem: it exports 60 per cent of its production to 124 countries, and the quality of installations in leading Sancerre leading growers’ cellars testifies to the region’s prosperity.

It’s also possible that classification may not aid comprehension.  I fear that the amount of fierce Catalan verbiage which the new Priorat system will put onto labels may puzzle and bemuse as much as enlighten.  The Catalan word for village (‘vila’) may sound to non-Catalans like a villa or a house; ‘paratge’ is a mouthful; and ‘vinya’ (vineyard) may sound to non-Catalans like a word for wine itself.

The conclusion, then, is that the benefits of the adoption of a cru system are not automatic and uniform.  My soundings in Sancerre, and the carefully assembled data from Petrie’s paper, suggest that classification there is unlikely, since the status quo works admirably well for most.  Priorat’s ambitious system may help a region where the economic stakes are, for the time being, lower than in Sancerre – though a considerable educational push will be required, and the system is never likely to eclipse the force of the individual grower’s name.

Priorat’s proposed classification

Priorat already has ‘village wines’ – look out for the term Vi de Vila on labels (35 wines used this term in 2017) plus the name of one of the 11 villages which make up the DOCa as well as ‘Masos de Falset’ for the Falset Priorat vineyards (Falset itself lies in Montsant).  Vi de Paratge might be the next term up, for wines from a locality or zone which is smaller than a village but larger than a single vineyard.  Vi de Vinya would be single vineyard wines, roughly equivalent to Premier Cru, and Gran Vi de Vinya for Grand Cru-level wines.  Each level of the classification would require a reduction in yield from the existing DOCa limit of 6,000 kg/ha: 4,000 kg/ha for Vi de Paratge and Vi de Vinya, and 2,500 kg/ha for Gran Vi de Vinya.  Vines would have to be at least 15 years old for Vi de Paratge, 20 years old for Vi de Vinya and 35 years old for Gran Vi de Vinya and, significantly, this final category will only be available for wines based on Garnatxa or Carinenya alone.

Catherine Petrie’s research paper is called Sancerre’s single vineyard wines versus formal cru classification systems: An investigation of Les Monts Damnés, Les Culs de Beaujeu, and Chêne Marchand. (2017). Recent MW research papers can be consulted on application to the Institute of Masters of Wine.

Read more Andrew Jefford columns on Decanter.com here

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Top scoring Chablis 2016 wines

January 15, 2018 - 2:08am

See the top scoring Chablis 2016 wines, rated by William Kelley following his en primeur tastings in Burgundy.

Top scoring Chablis 2016 wines.Top Chablis 2016 wines

Chablis was one of the appellations to suffer most from frost, plus hail and mildew, in the Burgundy 2016 vintage, with many producers losing a significant proportion of their harvest.

‘The 2016s will be scarce,’ said William Kelley, in his Burgundy 2016 vintage report published on Decanter.com before Christmas for Premium members.

‘Many Chablis wines, especially those from frosted vineyards, are exotic and rather atypical, but some producers have done well.’

The following wines have all scored 93 points and above, tasted en primeur in Burgundy by William Kelley.

See the top scoring Chablis wines below:

 

See all Burgundy en primeur coverage

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What is Amarone wine? – ask Decanter

January 15, 2018 - 12:41am

Have you tried Amarone della Valpolicella? Find out where and how it is made...

What is Amarone wine?

Amarone della Valpolicella is a wine made with partially dried grapes in Valpolicella, Veneto, North-east Italy. There are three geographical sub zones; Classico, Valpantena and ‘Est’, the extended zone.

Amarone wine map. Credit: Decanter/ Maggie Nelson

‘Each of the three geographical zones has its own identity,’  said Michael Garner, in the 2018 Decanter Italy supplement.

‘In broad strokes: Amarone from Classico tends to be the most elegant and aromatic, versions from the Valpantena are generally lighter and fruitier, while the so-called ‘extended’ zone (beyond Classico and Valpantena, bordering on the Soave) tends to produce richer, more muscular wines with a higher alcohol level.’

In-depth: See our Amarone buying guide – For Premium members Grape varieties

There are a few permitted grape varieties in Amarone wine – the main ones being Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, plus some lesser known ones.

‘The aromas and flavours of Amarone are determined invariably by Corvina – and to a lesser extent Corvinone,’ said Garner.

‘Elegance and perfume (especially a telltale note of freshly ground black pepper) are hallmarks of the former, while Corvinone has deeper colour, more tannins and tobacco-like aromas.’

‘Some growers talk up the current favourite Oseleta despite the low ratio of solid-to-liquid (skins and pips to must), which makes the variety a less suitable candidate for appassimento.’

Appassimento

Appassimento is the method of partially drying out the grapes, which are then slowly pressed, and slowly fermented, to make Amarone della Valpolicella.

‘Amarone is about winemaking as much as anything else,’ said Susan Hulme MW, in our 2017 panel tasting.

‘Decisions around drying the grapes, length of appassimento, and time fermenting on skins make dramatic differences to style and quality.’

What is the difference between ripasso and appassimento? Oak ageing

‘Amarone spends a minimum of two years in wood, though can remain there for up to nine or 10 in rare cases (Quintarelli, Zyme). Barrels vary from French and Slavonian oak through to chestnut, cherry and even acacia,’ said Garner.

‘Newer, smaller barrels, usually oak, are commonly used and have a distinct effect on both aroma and texture (mouthfeel) in particular, though there seems to be a return to the more subtle and seasoned notes promoted by larger and older wood.’

Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter. Find more wine questions answered here.

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Wine Legend: Viñedo Chadwick 2000

January 14, 2018 - 5:30am

What makes it a wine legend?

Wine Legend: Viñedo Chadwick 2000, Alto Maipo, Chile

Bottles produced 6,000

Composition 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Yield 30hl/ha

Alcohol 14.2%

Release price £30

Price today None available, but estimated at £350

A legend because…

Although the Chadwick vineyard close to the Maipo River was only planted in 1992, the wine was an immediate success from its first vintage (1999) onwards. In 2004, Eduardo Chadwick, the sixth generation of his family to run Viña Errazuriz, staged a blind tasting in Berlin of 16 Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style wines, including 2000 vintage Château Lafite and other top-scoring first growths – but it was this wine that received the highest average score. Since then Viñedo Chadwick’s reputation has been assured.

Looking back

Eduardo Chadwick wanted to honour his father Alfonso with a top-quality wine originating on the family’s home estate in Alto Maipo. The vines for Viñedo Chadwick were planted on Alfonso’s former polo ground, where he had trained daily to become Chile’s champion at the sport.

The vintage

After a wet winter, the spring was cool and the summer months delivered moderate temperatures. More cool weather in the autumn slowed ripening, resulting in a late harvest of balanced grapes with intense flavours. Green-harvesting ensured yields were reduced to a level that maintained fruit concentration and maturity.

The terroir

The 15ha vineyard was planted at a height of 650m in Puento Alto in the Alto Maipo valley, right next to one of the blocks used to produce another of Chile’s outstanding red wines, Almaviva. The soil is largely gravel, with a top layer of clay and loam over a stony subsoil that ensures excellent drainage. The vines are planted to a density of 4,160 vines/ha. Nights are cool, and morning breezes drift down the slopes of the Andes, moderating the daytime heat.

The wine

Vinification varies from parcel to parcel, but there is a clear nod to top-tier Bordeaux. The grapes are lightly crushed then destemmed. Maceration can take up to 25 days, with the frequency and duration of pumpovers adapted to the character of each lot, and the wine is aged for 17 months in new barriques with regular racking. The final blend is assembled towards the end of the ageing process, with no fining but a light filtration before bottling.

The reaction

Stephen Brook appraised the wine soon after bottling: ‘Rich, smoky, leathery nose. Very rich, plump and concentrated, opulent and spicy, a complex if somewhat broad wine, with good acidity and length.’

In 2015, Jeannie Cho Lee MW wrote: ‘A beautiful expression of Cabernet fruit – layers of cassis, cedar and tobacco with supple tannins… tightly knit and a bit reserved but opens up with time in the glass.’

Steven Spurrier, long a fan of this wine, recorded in 2016: ‘Still a wonderful nose with hints of rose petal and seductively aromatic. Extraordinary warmth and depth from just eight-year-old vines, almost “southern” richness with the spice but the firmness of Cabernet quite evident.’

More Wine Legends

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Top restaurants in Bolgheri to visit

January 13, 2018 - 3:00am

Helen Farrell picks the must-visit restaurants to try when visiting Bolgheri...

Trattoria del PaperoTop restaurants in Bolgheri to visit Looking for wineries to visit in Bolgheri? See our guide here Enoteca San Guido

Open all day, every day, this is the nearest that most visitors to Bolgheri get to the legendary Sassicaia. Just off the famous cypress-lined avenue, it boasts prestigious wines and top dishes. www.enotecasanguido.com

Enoteca San Guido

Bolgheri Green

Opened last year, this plank-striped sustainable hut sits on a lawn along the Via Bolgherese near the Caccia al Piano 1868 winery. Live music, happy hour and organic produce. Tel: +39 348 891 3766

Enoteca Tognoni

An institution in Bolgheri town centre (try the wild boar pappardelle pasta). Well-priced local wines and simple home-cooking. www.enotecatognoni.it

Io Cucino

Natural wines and seriously good food in this Bibbona outpost, whose centrepiece is an old grindstone. www.facebook.com/iocucinobibbona

La Pineta

La Pineta

Book well in advance for this fish restaurant by the sea. Unusual pairings and sheer simplicity in the three tasting menus. Extensive wine list. www.lapinetadizazzeri.it

La Carabaccia

La Carabaccia

Energetic Emanuele Vallini cooks up inventive mare e monti dishes. Try the namesake carabaccia , a Tuscan onion soup, or the catch of the day. www.lacarabaccia.it

Trattoria del Papero

Stone-clad walls and wooden-beamed ceilings greet travellers to Trattoria del Papero, in Riparbella (pictured top). Expect traditional country cooking, made to generations-old recipes. The wine list features local names such as La Regola and Tenuta di Canneto (try the white Sangiovese), plus Bolgheri stalwarts like Guado al Tasso’s Il Bruciato and Le Macchiole’s Paleo.

See more Decanter travel guides to Italy

Originally published in the Italy supplement with Decanter magazine’s February 2018 issue. Edited for Decanter.com by Eleanor Douglas. 

Helen Farrell is editor-in-chief at the Florentine.

 

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Amarone: a buyer’s guide

January 13, 2018 - 2:00am

Opening a bottle of Amarone is always a treat, but it can be hard to know what you’re getting when you buy. Michael Garner explains what lies behind the varied styles on offer, and picks his favourite wines of the moment...

Drying grape on racks at the Bertani estate. Amarone: a buyer’s guide

It’s rather like indulging a guilty pleasure: that velvety mouthfeel, the head-spinning alcohol, those beguiling sensations of sweetness. Few wines are quite so hedonistic, but that only partly explains a massive surge in popularity recently: Amarone has surprisingly broad appeal. Look below the surface and great examples show uncommon, indeed exquisite, balance and tone beyond the exhilarating aromas and flavours.

Best food friendly Amarones to seek out: Michael Garner is a DWWA Regional co-Chair for Italy and author of Amarone and the Fine Wines of Verona.

 

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Travel: Top Bolgheri wineries to visit

January 12, 2018 - 9:21am

Helen Farrell picks her top Bolgheri wineries to visit...

Caiarossa vineyards. Travel: Top Bolgheri wineries to visit

Getting there: Fly to Pisa and then the driving time to Bolgheri is about one hour. Book flights from London to to Pisa with British Airways.  

Wineries to visit and where to find them. Credit: Maggie Nelson / Decanter.

Ornellaia

One of the quintessential ‘aias’, Ornellaia, five minutes from Bolgheri by car, stretches at the northern end of the winery lined Via Bolgherese.

Reserve your appointment months in advance to be buzzed through the hallowed gate and down the long driveway flanked with verdant vines.

Either side of the sunken cantina entrance you will see a site-specific artwork: Cairo-born Ghada Amer’s Happily Ever After iron and jasmine garden installation, and Japanese artist Yutaka Sone’s Carrara-inspired marble statue.

The artistic highlight of the cellar tour is Rebecca Horn’s ever-moving sculpture in the barricaia, instilling subtle energy to the precious liquor resting in the French oak barrels. The visit ends with a tasting of Ornellaia’s elegant wines, from the approachable Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia to the terroir-driven cuvée Ornellaia to the terroir-driven cuvée Ornellaia.

The Happily Ever After Garden installation at Ornellaia.

Mulini di Segalari

Continue along the Via Bolgherese in the direction of Castagneto Carducci, and take a left onto the Traversa di Lamentano. Even the most experienced wine adventurer is advised to pull over upon reaching the Serni olive oil mill and give Marina Tinacci Mannelli a call.

Down a steep hill and across a ford, her estate, Mulini di Segalari has to be be seen to be believed. Planted every which way with vines, vibrant even post-harvest, this is a thriving valley of sustainability.

Following Tinacci around the former mill site is an education as the winemaker excitedly points out her just planted Sauvignon Gris, hands you Vermentino grapes to taste and chats about plans to welcome visitors for organic healthy lunches and ‘winemaker for a day’ experiences.

Step into the minuscule cellar where all the bottling and labelling is still done by hand.

Wines include 10,000 bottles of sea-breezy 100% Sangiovese Soloterra, and an expressive Vermentino and Manzoni Bianco white blend called Un po’ più su del Mare, as well as more typical Bolgheri blends.

Mulini di Segalari

Podere Castellaccio

Still in the Segalari area, but up on the hill and a cork’s throw from the hilltop town of Castagneto Carducci, Podere Castellaccio has some of the oldest vines and most mesmerising views in Bolgheri.

The 18ha estate has just 3.5ha under vine, organic Ciliegiolo, Foglia Tonda, Pugnitello and Sangiovese, plus a Cabernet Franc parcel as a concession to Bolgheri’s contemporary scene. Alessandro Scappini is boldly staying true to his grandfather’s native vineyards.

A dreamy place to holiday, the estate boasts six beautifully appointed suites and verdant views as far as the Mediterranean. Light pours in through the floor-to-ceiling window in the new tasting room, where cured meats and cheeses are served as an accompaniment to the elegant Dinostro, an approachable 100% Sangiovese; Valénte, an opulent, fruit-forward native grape blend; and the fascinating Somatico, a punchy pure Pugnitello.

Arrive here an hour before sunset and watch the Tuscan tramonto at its most seductive.

Podere Sapaio

Back down on the Bolgheri plain, organically certified Podere Sapaio has been shaping a cult following with its crown emblazoned labels since 1999. Start your visit at the unassuming enoteca and spacious modern cellars through the winery’s signature red gate off the main road in Donoratico.

Veneto-born Massimo Piccin explains his ethos of emphasising the land, vinifying and ageing each variety and parcel of vineyard separately and blending before returning the Sapaio Bolgheri DOC Superiore to the barrique for a final four or five months.

The €30 tour continues around the vineyards planted with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot before heading down the bucolic back lanes of Bolgheri to the (again) red-gated Podere. Enjoy a tasting of the terroir-driven Sapaio and Volpolo Bolgheri DOC in the stylish contemporary interior, or outdoors on the breezy patio gazing at the vines, a single fortress topping the distant hills beyond.

Campo alle Comete

Also on the flat, now under development but already open to visitors, Campo alle Comete is southern Italian standard-bearer Feudi di San Gregorio’s 2016 Bolgheri investment.

Previously owned by Guicciardini Strozzi, the circular cellar emanates a space-like atmosphere, standing like an observatory with its weathered steel finish, well signposted with sky-blue totems off the Via Bolgherese.

The barrique cellar carries on the astral theme, the ceiling scattered with tiny star-like lights, while the wine shop’s modern, bottle-lined walls give an introduction to the ambitious Campo alle Comete project: 15ha of international varieties, half of which is Merlot, with immediate plans to double the planted area.

The circular cellar at Campo alle Comete.

Duemani

Climb up into the hills through the town of Riparbella to biodynamic boutique winery Duemani . Be swept away by the expanse of Cabernet Franc while sipping fine yet fresh wines in the just-opened airy tasting room.

Prima Pietra winery

Feel the sea breeze caress your face at the highest vineyard along the Tuscan coast with magical views of the Mediterranean on the horizon. This single, sweeping, verdant vineyard stretches below the Prima Pietra winery, owned by Massimo Ferragamo, son of the famous shoe designer. A refined tasting room on the first floor of the farmhouse is set to open in summer 2018.

Caiarossa

Another expanse of greenery awaits at Caiarossa . The brick-red painted winery demands your attention on arrival and continues to captivate on the inside with the vertical, gravity-driven cellar built to feng shui principles. Find out about the producer’s biodynamic winemaking on a cellar tour with the young international team before tasting the cantina’s vivacious namesake wine, a seven-varietal blend.

See more Decanter travel guides to Italy

Originally published in the Italy supplement with Decanter magazine’s February 2018 issue. Edited for Decanter.com by Eleanor Douglas. 

Helen Farrell is editor-in-chief at the Florentine.

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Pape Clement owner Bernard Magrez attacked at home

January 12, 2018 - 9:19am

Bernard Magrez, owner of several classified Bordeaux wine estates, has been attacked at his home but was physically unhurt and managed to untie himself and call police, according to reports.

Bernard Magrez in Bordeaux.

Magrez, owner of Château Pape-Clément in Pessac-Léognan and many other wine estates in France and worldwide, was assaulted in the early hours of Friday morning, between 3am and 4am, at his home in downtown Bordeaux, according to French newspaper Sud-Ouest.

Armed with a knife, a screwdriver and possibly a handgun, up to five men burst into the house and surprised the businessman.

Despite being tied up, Magrez was reportedly unhurt – other than being shaken by the ordeal.

In just a few minutes, the intruders took a collection of luxury watches, cash and other items before escaping from the scene in Magrez’s car.

At the age of 81, Magrez managed to escape from his ties at around 7am and call the police, Sud-Ouest reported.

Decanter.com was unable to reach Magrez or his family today (12 January).

According to police, the thieves would have had to follow Magrez for several days and know the area before taking action. Officers were searching the premises for clues and fingerprints.

The break-in brings back memories of French wine collector Michel-Jack Chasseuil being briefly held hostage in his own home in 2014.

Alongside owning several Bordeaux wine estates, Magrez has also invested significantly in wine tourism in Bordeaux, including in his La Grande Maison restaurant and in support for the Cité du Vin wine cultural centre.

See also:

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Coravin goes automatic with Model Eleven

January 12, 2018 - 1:01am

Coravin is planning to release an automated version of its wine preservation gadget together with an app that can match wines with music.

Coravin Model Eleven.

Coravin demonstrated its automated ‘Model Eleven’ at the CES 2018 tech show in Las Vegas this week.

It works exactly the same as earlier models, in terms of its ability to extract wine from the bottle without pulling the cork, Coravin said.

But, the new version, which is set to cost nearly $1,000, has automated features to tell owners when the wine is ready to pour.

Once the needle has been pressed through the cork and into the wine, an LED system on the device will show a green light when the wine is ready to be poured.

Coravin Model Eleven can also connect via Bluetooth to a newly developed Coravin app, named Coravin Moments.

Coravin Eleven is set to cost $999.95 when it is released in September 2018, across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions.

Coravin partnered with Delectable, the app recently acquired by Vinous, to provide information on the wines for Coravin Moments, which will initially be available for download on Apple iOS mobile in September 2018.

The Moments app can also match wines with food and even your favourite song or film, as well as flag up when it is time to order replacement needles and argon gas capsules, Coravin said.

Argon, an inert gas, replaces wine poured from the bottle through the needle, helping to preserve the remaining wine by preventing too much contact with oxygen.

Coravin has become a regular fixture in many restaurants since its launch, helping sommeliers to serve more wines by the glass.

Long read: Coravin – Changing the way we drink wine

 

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Spot the difference: Tirage and dosage in Champagne – ask Decanter

January 11, 2018 - 9:01am

Not sure what they mean? John Stimpfig explains...

Champagne before disgorgement.Difference between tirage and dosage

Ben Jenkins, Sidmouth, asks: What is the difference between tirage and dosage in the production of Champagne?

John Stimpfig replies: Both additions are key elements in the winemaking process for Champagne and all bottle-fermented sparkling wine.

Liqueur de tirage is a liquid solution of yeast, wine and sugar that is added to the still base wine in order to create the secondary fermentation in bottle. The amount of sugar determines the level of dryness in the wine as well as the atmospheric pressure in the bottle.

The dosage is the amount of sugar in the liqueur d’expedition (a mix of sugar and wine), which is added just after disgorgement.

This not only tops up the wine, it also helps balance the acidity and add sweetness – depending on the style (see below).

SEE ALSO: What’s the difference between ‘brut nature’ and ‘zéro dosage’? Why does my ‘extra dry’ Prosecco taste sweet? – ask Decanter

As all the yeasts have either been consumed or expelled at the point of disgorgement, there is no chance of a third fermentation in bottle.

Some Champagnes are now labelled as non-dosé, zéro dosage or brut nature (the official term), which means that no sugar was added to the liqueur d’expedition.

Brut Nature: no added sugar and less than 3 grams/litre of residual sugars

Extra-Brut: between 0g/l and 6g/l of residual sugars

Brut: less than 12g/l of residual sugars

Extra Sec/Extra Dry: between 12g/l and 17g/l of residual sugars

Sec/Dry: between 17g/l and 32g/l of residual sugars

Demi-Sec: between 32g/l and 50g/l of residual sugars

Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter

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