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Mouton Rothschild reveals 2016 label by William Kentridge

December 13, 2018 - 4:43am

Château Mouton Rothschild has commissioned South African artist William Kentridge to design the label for its 2016 vintage grand vin. See the design in full below.

William Kentridge's 'The Triumphs of Bacchus' for the Mouton 2016 label.

Kentridge has created an artwork named ‘The Triumphs of Bacchus’ and involving a series of silhouettes for the Mouton Rothschild 2016 label.

The Pauillac estate has commissioned an artist to design every grand vin vintage label since 1945, having first started the concept in 1924.

Mouton said that Kentridge, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955, was ‘the first world-famous artist from the African continent to illustrate a Mouton label’.

Kentridge’s label design shows a variety of silhouettes of Bacchus in what the first growth Château described as a joyful procession.

The work was inspired by Bacchic characters from the paintings of great artists, from Titian to Matisse, Mouton said.

The label in full

The Mouton 2016 label in full. Credits: Mouton Rothschild / William Kentridge.

One of the art forms most closely associated with Kentridge is the creation of animated film using charcoal drawings or black-card cut-outs, Mouton said.

Kentridge has also become well-known for a variety of art forms, including sculpture and theatre.

There has been a political edge to several of his works.

Kentridge recently exhibited his ‘The Head and the Load’ artwork at the Tate Modern in London. Involving film projections, mechanised sculptures and music, the artwork told the story of African porters and carriers who served European powers in the First World War.

This year’s wine label follows the design by German artist Gerhard Richter for the Mouton 2015 vintage.


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Jane Anson’s top fine wines of 2018

December 13, 2018 - 3:05am

See the wines that have made Jane Anson's end-of-year highlights, with exclusive tasting notes for Decanter Premium members...

Lafite Rothschild poured at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine EncounterScroll down to see Jane Anson’s top fine wines of 2018

Introduction by staff

Jane Anson has had the slightly enviable task of tasting hundreds of good wines for Decanter in 2018, for articles in the print magazine and on Decanter Premium.

This has covered vertical tastings of some of Bordeaux’s top estates – a certain 150-year Lafite anniversary sticks in our minds – plus a recent trip to California and Oregon.

So, we thought it be interesting to ask our Bordeaux-based contributing editor to pick her top 10 fine wines tasted in 2018.

There are naturally several Bordeaux greats in the following list, as you’d expect from our chief critic for this region, but you’ll also find top wines from California, Rioja, Oregon and New Zealand.

As well as tasting and writing regular articles for Decanter as a contributing editor, Anson is currently writing a comprehensive book on her specialist region, to be titled ‘Inside Bordeaux’. 

Jane Anson’s top fine wines of 2018


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White wine for Christmas under £15

December 13, 2018 - 1:00am

Whether you are buying wine as a gift or stocking up for the party season ahead, Decanter's tasting team have found some of the best white wine for Christmas under £15 a bottle...

You don’t need to break the bank to try something new and exciting this festive season. Whether you’re looking for a gift, or stocking up for the big day or New Year, these bargain Christmas white wines get the thumbs up from our tasting team.

Successful winter whites can, generally, be split into two categories:

  • Those which are rounded with some fat on them, ideal for matching the richness of the seasonal cuisine
  • Those that are crisp enough to cut through foods such as smoked salmon, goose and cheese.

If you want to experience both styles, try pairing a crisp white – such as the Pieropan Soave below – with a smoked salmon starter, before moving on to a fuller white for the main course with all the trimmings.

White wine for Christmas under £15: function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } Related content:

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Best Christmas Champagne: vintage and non-vintage bottles to buy

December 12, 2018 - 5:31am

Yohan Castaing picks out a range of Champagnes for Christmas, ranging from money-no-object Champagnes to good quality non-vintage choices...

Champagne often plays a leading role at Christmas, so below are some top examples that reflect current drinking trends.


function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } }

You might also like: Producer profile: Dom Pérignon Champagne to look for under £40: Panel tasting results

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Yealands Estate fined NZ$400,000 for breaching wine rules

December 12, 2018 - 4:15am

Major New Zealand producer Yealands Estate and its ex-owner have been fined after pleading guilty to previously breaking the rules on wine destined for the European Union.

Yealands Estate vines in Awatere Valley. In brief
  • NZ$400,000 fine relates to wine destined for EU between 2012 and 2015
  • Court hands out additional fines to ex-owner Peter Yealands and two former, senior staff
  • Company’s new management says it ‘cooperated fully’ with probe and no affected wine sold under Yealands brand name
Full story

In what New Zealand government officials described as an unprecedented case, Yealands Estate Wines Ltd was fined NZ$400,000 by Blenheim District Court this week.

The firm admitted to breaching New Zealand’s 2003 Wine Act.

Previous management failed to declare that some wine intended for export to the European Union had been sweetened with sugar after fermentation – contrary to EU wine rules – said New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), which brought the prosecution.

That amounted to ‘deliberate deception’, said Gary Orr, the MPI’s manager of compliance investigations.

‘The records relate to more than 6.5 million litres of wine, and around 3.7 million litres of affected wine were exported to Europe between May 2013 and December 2015,’ Orr said, following a two-year investigation.

‘These are the first convictions for offending under the provisions of the Wine Act in New Zealand,’ he added.

Judge Bill Hastings also imposed fines on three individuals involved, all of whom pleaded guilty:

  • Peter Yealands, ex-owner, was fined $30,000;
  • Jeff Fyfe, ex-general manager for winery operations was fined $35,000;
  • Tamra Kelly, ex-chief winemaker was fined $35,000.

Yealands said that none of the affected wine was sold under its own brand name.

The company has since come under new ownership in the form of electricity firm Marlborough Lines, which bought an 80% stake in Yealands in 2015 and acquired the rest of the wine group earlier this year.

Yealands said that  it ‘cooperated fully with the MPI investigation as soon as the errors were brought to [our] attention in early 2016’.

Adrian Garforth, the current Yealands CEO, said, ‘Systems we have introduced, training and comprehensive audits mean that our wines are fully compliant, and breaches of this kind will not happen again.

‘These events, which predate my appointment, do not reflect our company values and our desire to do everything to the highest possible standard.’

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Serving wine at Christmas – dilemmas solved

December 12, 2018 - 3:35am

What kind of sparkling should you choose for your party – and where from? Should you let the wine breathe on Christmas day? When should you start chilling it? And what to do with any leftovers? We’ve got your questions answered with our wine at Christmas guide…

Wine at Christmas guide – dilemmas solved

Click on the links below to read the full articles.

See also: Wines to pair with turkey at Christmas How do I chill wine in a hurry?

Credit: Decanter/ Ellie Douglas

The neighbours are coming round for a last minute festive drink, but there’s nothing cool in the fridge. What to do? Xavier Rousset MS suggests a bucket of icy water with a bit of salt – and make sure the bottle is submerged.

Should you put wine in the freezer?

There’s nothing wrong with that – and wrapping in a wet cloth will speed it up. Just make sure you don’t forget about it!

How to get the serving temperatures right on Christmas day

Let us help you to chill this Christmas. Credit: Sergiy Tryapitsyn / Alamy.

Should you put ice cubes in wine?

Although you’re free to enjoy wine how you’d like, the problem with ice cubes in wine is that as it melts, it dilutes the wine. Try keeping some grapes in the freezer and popping those in your glass instead.

How long should I chill my Champagne for?

When chilling Champagne for Christmas day, it’s worth remembering that your fridge is probably stocked full with food. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get the bottle in there the night before, says Decanter tastings director Christelle Guibert.

Does putting a spoon in my sparkling wine keep it sparkling?

There’s no real evidence to support this idea  – really it’s just another wine myth. Get yourself a Champagne stopper if you think there’ll be leftovers.

What should you do if your wine cork breaks or crumbles?

What should you do if your wine cork breaks? Credit: Cath Lowe/ Decanter

We’ve all been there – the cork crumbles into a special bottle you’ve been saving up. You can filter it out, but be sure to consider things like how old it is, and how soon you’ll be drinking it, say our experts.

Should you decant your white wines?

Steven Spurrier personally decants white Rhônes and aged Alsace Rieslings. But remember, if you do decant a white wine, don’t give it a chance to warm up.

Should I let my wine ‘breathe’?

Just taking the cork out early won’t do anything. Either decant fully if it’s needed, or open when it’s time to drink it.

When should you double decant a wine?

Double decanting wines at the Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter 2017.

It’s often done for some of our masterclass wines at Decanter Fine Wine Encounters, but not all wines benefit from double decanting – particularly fragrant and lightly structured ones.


Follow the Decanter guide to getting it right on Christmas day, from Champagne through to sweet wines.

And after the festivities… How long can I keep wine open?

It will last longer than you probably think it will – most still wines can last between three to five days.

See Christmas wine suggestions and food pairing advice

Article updated in December 2018.

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Christmas Champagne deals

December 12, 2018 - 3:00am

We've sourced some top Champagne deals this Christmas...

Keith Jackson / Alamy

Christmas is a great excuse to drink Champagne, and it’s also the time of year wine merchants and supermarkets come out with some of their best Champagne deals.

Top Champagne deals UK:

Lanson NV

Tesco have knocked £10 off a bottle, now just £22. It’s a Champagne known for its sharp, citrussy bite that’s ideal with canapes, fish and creamy dishes.

Go to deal

Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut NV

Sainsbury’s is listing this popular Champagne for £28.

Go to deal

Delacourt range of Champagnes

Marks & Spencer are offering 25% off when you buy 24 or more bottles of wine or Champagne, making these look good value at just £22.50.

Go to deal

Laurent-Perrier Brut NV

Waitrose is currently offering 33% off this very reliable fizz that’s a good all-rounder.

Go to deal

Veuve Clicquot 2008

Majestic is selling Veuve’s rich vintage Champagne for £49.99, on its ‘mix 6’ offer.

Go to deal

Canard-Duchêne Brut NV

Meanwhile, you can pick up this great value Champagne at Oddbins for just £21.

Go to deal

Gosset Grand Réserve Brut NV

The Wine Society have reduced Gosset’s NV to £32, when you buy six bottles.

Go to deal

Pol Roger range

Berry Brothers & Rudd have great deals on this fantastic house  until 31 December, although stock is limited. Our pick is the rich but fresh Pol Roger 2009 for £51.75.

Go to deal


Dom Perignon 2009

Total Wine have reduced this extravagant fizz to $137.97 for Christmas.

Go to deal

Taittinger Brut NV

Grand Vin Wine Merchants have Taittinger’s fresh, citrussy non-vintage on sale at $25.99, or $24.99 if you buy 12.

Go to deal

Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV

This highly-rated Champagne is available at K&L for just $44.99

Go to deal

Scroll down for more Christmas Champagne deals See also: Christmas wine gift guide Top whisky deals Cheese and wine matching: the ultimate guide Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne NV


A solid rosé Champagne and one of the best-known, available for an unusually low price. A great way of announcing your arrival at a Christmas party or enjoying date night, but with the added bonus of not rinsing your bank account.

£44.90 – Buy Now

Pol Roger Champagne NV

One of the best NV Champagnes out there and famed for their Winston Churchill Cuvee, which, unfortunately, you won’t find discounted.

£32.95 – £8.00 off – Buy Now 

Taittinger Champagne NV

A Taittinger deal in the US is listed above, but if you’re in the UK, here’s a great deal too. It will happily improve for 18 months on its side, dependent on the disgorgement date.

£26.25 – £12.25 off – Buy Now

Lanson Rosé NV

One of the best value rosés out there at this price, we would happily buy them this year for next – especially with Lanson’s fresh styles of Champagne.

£27.00 – £10.00 off – Buy now

Louis Roederer, Brut Premier NV

With ‘a zesty lemon and fresh apple character, with a steely mineral note and some wood and cream in the background‘, according to our taster, this is a great price  for a Champagne that will always be greeted well over the Christmas period.

£31.50 – £8 off – Buy now

Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé Champagne

£36 – £9 off – Buy now


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Red wine for Christmas under £15

December 12, 2018 - 2:00am

Whether you are buying wine as a gift or stocking up for the party season ahead, Decanter's tasting team has found some of the best red wine for Christmas under £15 a bottle...


You don’t need to break the bank to try something new and exciting this festive season.

Whether you’re looking for a gift, or stocking up for Christmas day, Christmas parties or New Year, these wines get the thumbs up from our tasting team.


Red wine for Christmas under £15:

Wines updated December 2018.

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The post Red wine for Christmas under £15 appeared first on Decanter. Christmas wine gift guide

December 11, 2018 - 8:30am

Not sure what to get the wine lover in your life? We pick some of our favourites, covering a range of budgets...

What to buy the wine lover in your life. Moët & Chandon Christmas cracker

Moët & Chandon Christmas cracker.

A new look for Moët & Chandon’s traditional Christmas cracker. Each one includes a 20cl bottle of  Moët & Chandon and festive confetti. Also available in rosé. 

£19.99 Selfridges UK

Biscuiteers Champagne Charlie gingerbread

Champagne Charlie gingerbread

A gift from Biscuiteers is an original and delicious treat, and this Champagne Charlie Jolly Ginger gingerbread will add a little festive fun. £6 

Wine Folly Wine Flavours wheel

Perfect for anyone studying wine tasting or simply looking to improve their skills. This colourful flavours wheel from Wine Folly will help you understand what different flavours indicate about a wine.

$5 Wine Folly

*Additional delivery charge for UK orders.

Corkcicle Canteen flask

The Corkcicle Canteen

The air-tight Corkcicle flask is perfect for keeping your wine cool on the move; ideal for taking your white wine on a picnic. It’s available in a super-stylish range of colours – members of the Decanter team are big fans.

 Amazon UK £25  

Amazon US $25.99

Riedel Extreme Pinot Noir glass set

Riedel Extreme Pinot Noir

Any wine lover will be happy to receive glassware from Riedel, especially a versatile glass like the Extreme Pinot Noir. In this set, pay for 3 glasses and get the fourth free (UK only).

 Riedel UK (set of four) £52 

 Riedel US (set of two) $45 

Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label NV with personalised tin

Veuve Clicquot in personalised tin.

Make receiving a bottle of Veuve Clicquot  Yellow Label NV even more special by giving it in this personalised arrow tin. Add a destination of your choice and it will show how far its is from Reims, the home of the Champagne house.

£56.99 Selfridges UK

World of Wine board game

Test your wine knowledge with friends with the World of Wine board game. There are eight topics, with a total of 320 question cards (extra question packs are also available). See some of the questions here. 

Wine School Excellence £59.95*

*Extra charge for international delivery

Chapel Down lease a vine gift

Vineyards at Chapel Down.

Want a taste of owning a vineyard? Kent-based winery Chapel Down offers a ‘lease a vine’ scheme. As a leaseholder, you can visit the winery, take part in the harvest, attend an exclusive event, receive a case of the Bacchus wine and get discounts on other Chapel Down products. Choose from 5 to 40 vines, and one or three-year schemes.

Chapel Down £275 – £2700

Decanter Premium subscription

Decanter Premium subscription

For a wine lover and collector, treat them to a Decanter Premium subscription, giving them full access to Decanter’s expert tasting notes, vintage reports and exclusive articles.

 Decanter Premium – one year £75 / $100 

Wine and tapas of the Languedoc region: One-day course

Take a food and wine course in the Languedoc. Credit:

Planning a wine trip through France for 2019? Treat someone to a food-and-wine day course in the Languedoc, with Emma Kershaw who has set up her wine school in a renovated winery, La Maison du Rire. This present also includes a copy of her book A Taste of Le Sud .

  € 70 La Maison du Rire

Nude Glass wine decanter

Nude Design wine decanter

Christmas is the ultimate time to bring out the decanter to get the most from your best bottles. This stylish balancing wine decanter from Nude Glass has been cleverly designed to remain stable while revolving.

£48 Nude Glass*

*International delivery available for additional price. 

Coravin Model Two wine preservation system

To really spoil the wine lover in your life, give them a Coravin. This neat device lets you have a glass of wine without uncorking the bottle. The needle pierces through the cork, which is then sealed with argon gas – meaning the wine doesn’t come into contact with oxygen.

Amazon UK £249

Amazon US $299

Grow your own wine kit

Grow your own wine kit

Give an aspiring winemaker this fun ‘grow your own’ red wine kit, complete with a vine in a crate and personalised labels.


zzysh by Vinturi Champagne preserver

zzysh Champagne and sparkling wine preserver. Credit:

Unfinished sparkling wine? The zzysh Champagne preserver is specially designed for sparkling wines. It uses argon gas with CO2 to prevent oxidisation and keep the wine sparkling. Ideal for any New Year’s Eve leftovers…

  $99 Vinturi

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Best Burgundy 2017: Top scoring wines

December 11, 2018 - 7:50am

Wines scoring 98 points and above, exclusively for Decanter Premium members...

'When it's good, 2017 is really good,' says Tim Atkin MW

Burgundy 2017 is ‘a large vintage of mostly good quality wines, both red and white,’ says Tim Atkin MW in his en primeur vintage report – something the region hasn’t experienced for nearly a decade.


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Historic Madeira bottling fetches nearly $16,000 at auction

December 11, 2018 - 4:41am

A cache of centuries-old Madeira discovered in New Jersey during renovation work has been auctioned by Christie’s, with one bottling from the late 1700s selling for nearly $16,000, while the same auction was also declared a 'watershed' moment for rare American whiskies.

Some of the Madeira discovered at Liberty Hall Musuem, including the Lenox bottlings from the late 18th century.

A ‘quart’ bottle of The Lenox Madeira, imported to Philadelphia in 1796 by Robert Lenox and originally bottled in 1798 before being re-bottled in 1888, sold for $15,925 at the Christie’s auction in New York.

Two more bottles of the same fortified wine fetched $14,700, meaning all three lots sold for close to double Christie’s’ pre-sale high estimates of $8,000. Christie’s results for the 7 December auction also show that several other bottles of the Lenox Madeira beat pre-sale estimates.

All were from a large collection of Madeira wines discovered behind a wall during renovation work at Liberty Hall Museum, a registered national landmark and part of Kean University in New Jersey.

Another larger bottling, a five-gallon ‘demijohn’ of Old Sercial Madeira, 1846, fetched $39,200 at the 7 December auction.

The wine had a nose of ‘fudge, violets, straw, vanilla and vintage furniture wax’, according to pre-auction tasting notes by Edwin Vos, head of wine sales for Continental Europe at Christie’s.

John Kean Sr, president of Liberty Hall, attended the auction and told that the museum was very pleased with the results, ‘although as expected, a number of items did not meet the required minimums’.

He added, ‘At this time, we have not as yet been advised as to the amount netted from the sale and, of course, will be deciding on how to handle the items that did not sell. When the final numbers are received we will determine the projects at the museum that are most urgent in need of support.’

Chris Munro, head of wine at Christie’s for the Americas, highlighted strong global demand for both the rare Madeiras and also a collection of pre-Prohibition American whiskies, which were offered in the same auction.

Munro said this represented a ‘watershed moment’ for rare American whiskey after many lots ‘smashed through’ pre-sale estimates.

A single lot containing nine quarts of JH Beam Old Style Brookhill Sour Mash 1912, fetched $26,950 versus a high estimate of $5,000.

More about the Madeira discovered at Liberty Hall

‘Christie’s specialists were astonished by the rarity of the bottles and demijohns present in the cellar,’ said Edwin Vos, in auction notes.

He said the inspection team arrived in September 2017 to find ‘Madeira bottles with handwritten labels from 1820 and the great 1808 vintage in one corner, but also a number of large hand-blown glass bottles of Robert Lenox from 1796’.

America was a key destination for Madeira wines in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Bill Schroh Jr, Liberty Hall Museum’s director of operations, told that the team was ‘blown away’ by the find. ‘We know of other people who found single bottles of Madeira from this era, but not three cases.’ he said.

The wine cellar at Liberty Hall had barely been touched since the 1940s.

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Macallan 1926 whisky sets new world auction record

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New Zealand whites: 2018 vintage report

December 11, 2018 - 1:00am

Thanks to one of the hottest summers in New Zealand's history, there is a clear vintage expression across both the reds and whites from 2018 says Rebecca Gibb MW, who reports on the weather conditions across the country and selects her top white wines from recent tastings…

Triathletes clad in neoprene return to the open waters of New Zealand’s coast each November donning a couple of swimming hats to avoid ice-cream headaches, but in late 2017 the waters were so unseasonably warm even the wetsuits could be comfortably ditched in favour of a pair of budgie smugglers.

Rebecca Gibb MW’s top New Zealand white wines from 2018


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You may also like New Zealand Syrah – panel tasting results Beyond Sauvignon: Top New Zealand white wines – Panel tasting results Mature New Zealand wines from the cellar New Zealand Pinot Noir for your cellar

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Best value red Burgundy 2017 en primeur to buy

December 10, 2018 - 9:00am

Tim Atkin MW highlights the red Burgundies he sees as offering the best value in the 2017 vintage...

Harvesting in Burgundy

‘The 2017 vintage has potential for finding some great value red wines, particularly the generic Bourgognes as well as a select few from Mercurey, Savigny-lès-Beaune and Fixin’, says Tim Atkin MW in his recent Burgundy 2017 en primeur report. Below, Tim has listed his best value red Burgundy 2017 wines to buy.

He rates two Mercureys the highest, and being a relatively unknown appellation prices tend to be reasonable in comparison to the most popular appellations. Bourgogne also features, and as this is the entry-level wine for many producers, it’s a great place to start.

Tim’s value red Burgundy 2017 picks:


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Best value white Burgundy 2017 en primeur to buy

December 10, 2018 - 7:00am

Tim Atkin MW selects his top value white wines from the 2017 Burgundy vintage...

Harvesting Corton-Charlemagne grand cru grapes in Pernand-Vergelesses.

‘The 2017 vintage has potential for finding some great value white wines’, says Tim Atkin MW in his Burgundy 2017 en primeur report. Below he has listed his best value white Burgundy 2017 picks.

Selecting wines from lesser-known appellations such as Ladoix, Auxey-Duresses and Pernand-Vergelesses is a wise use of funds, allowing you to enjoy the winemaking style of your favourite producer at a lower price-point that their more prestigious bottles.

Tim’s value white Burgundy 2017 picks:


function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } See all Burgundy 2017 en primeur tasting notes & scores Return to the Burgundy 2017 en primeur hub page

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Jefford on Monday: Brunello’s breakthrough

December 10, 2018 - 3:08am

Andrew Jefford gauges the challenges facing Montalcino...

Le Chiuse in the Montosoli sector of North Montalcino.Jefford on Monday: Brunello’s breakthrough

‘We were living in misery; now we are lords.’ Those were almost the first words spoken to me during a recent visit to Brunello di Montalcino. Not by a winegrower (their phrasing is more circumspect, both on misery and lordliness), but by a Montalcinese whose family has long lived in this small town of just under 6,000 people: Alessandro Pierangioli. The Pierangiolis were sharecroppers and cellar workers for Biondi-Santi for many years; now, though, Alessandro and his wife have a wine shop and a gelateria, and he drives tourists to wineries during the summer season. He’s seen a lifetime of rising prosperity.

The change came during the last quarter of the twentieth century. ‘Historically, everyone came through Montalcino on their way to see the Pope,’ said Sebastian Nasello of Podere Le Ripi, alluding to the former road from Florence and Siena to Rome. ‘But we got poorer with the car. After World War Two, no one invested here.’ Italy’s main north-south motorway, the A1, was built between 1956 and 1964, and circumnavigated the once-fortified hilltop town of Montalcino. Abandoned by passing trade, the town fell back on its agricultural resources: not just wine, but forestry, olive oil, honey and the growing of the ancient strain of wheat called spelt.

The town’s DOC may have been awarded as long ago as 1966, but international acclaim came much later; my 1973 edition of The Penguin Book of Wines, written by Allan Sichel, fails even to mention Montalcino, though Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are name-checked. For all that, the groundwork had been laid in the nineteenth century by the Biondi-Santi and Colombini (Fattoria dei Barbi) families: the vital thread of ambition and refinement which positioned Brunello as one of Italy’s greatest red wines, if one little-known abroad. The modern impetus for Brunello di Montalcino, by contrast, came with the noisy, earth-moving arrival of the American Mariani brothers at Banfi in 1977 – and with the olive-killing frosts of 1985, which saw many former olive groves replanted with vines.

I mention this history simply to point out that the phenomenon of Brunello di Montalcino as an internationally traded, collectable fine wine to rival the other great Bs – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco – is a recent phenomenon. (The arrival of Bolgheri in the club is more recent still.) Much evolution lies ahead. I will explore these themes in a feature-length article for next May’s edition of Decanter magazine, but let me just outline some of the challenges the now-fortunate Brunello needs to meet as it decides what sort of a fine wine it wishes to be.

Brunello di Montalcino 2010 panel tasting – exclusive to Decanter Premium subscribers 

One challenge is that of explaining and presenting itself. In theory, Brunello should be easy to understand, at least by comparison with the complexities of Chianti: it is a single, unitary area, roughly square in shape, lying to the south of Siena and rather closer to the sea than does Chianti. That apparent simplicity, though, hides some intriguing complications.

Montalcino is a single, large commune of 31,200 ha, yet vines occupy no more than 12 per cent of that area: a total of 3,500 ha. This is the growing zone for four different wines: the DOCG of Brunello di Montalcino (including its Riserva incarnation), the DOC of Rosso di Montalcino, the DOC of Sant’Antimo and the little-used sweet-white DOC of Moscadello (based on a local strain of the Moscato grape). In addition to that, vines grown inside the commune of Montalcino are also eligible for IGT Toscana – and, should producers wish, they can also make both Chianti and Chianti Colli Senesi in Montalcino, too, though few do this.

A cask destined to eventually become Brunello when its ageing period is complete. Credit: Andrew Jefford.

There are only 60 ha of Moscadello planted in Montalcino, and just 480 ha of vineyards are used for Sant’Antimo – a libertarian DOC for both red and white international varieties and Vin Santo. The DOCG of Brunello di Montalcino is currently approved for 2,100 ha. Rosso di Montalcino is available for wines from the same vineyards cropped at different yields and made to different ageing protocols. Note, though, that there are also a further 510 ha of ‘secondary’ vineyards in the commune of Montalcino that are only classified for Rosso and not for Brunello itself. The number of hectares used for Rosso di Montalcino varies every year depending on the quality of the overall red-wine harvest – though in general the production volume of Rosso is around half that of Brunello (4.5 million bottles compared to 9 million). Some 350 ha are used for IGT Toscana and the Chianti denominazioni (mainly Toscana).

Another challenge for Brunello is to improve its mapping. The best available map at present is that in The World Atlas of Wine, but its scale is relatively small and many of today’s leading estates are missing from it; the Consorzio’s own map shows the relative position of the region’s estates, but the topography is almost greyed out and hard to see among the mass of domain identifications. There are maps in Kerin O’Keefe’s useful and thoroughly researched Brunello di Montalcino (a book I thoroughly recommend), but these are rudimentary, without contour lines, and in my edition the maps for North Montalcino and South Montalcino are in the wrong place. I fervently hope the cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti can tackle Montalcino at some point: that would be of great benefit both to wine drinkers and to the region itself.

Since this is the certainty: wine enthusiasts are going to want to know much more about Brunello di Montalcino in future years. There is no plan at the official level to develop a system of sub-regional zones or crus – but this will inevitably become the major story of Brunello over the next two decades, returned to time and time again by those who visit the region, and constantly alluded to by those who write about the region. Even though there is no official project, I note that the Consorzio did (back in 2012) commission soil studies which divide the region into around four sub-groupings: a North-Western section based on galestro (friable limey clay); a North-Eastern section based on heavier clay; a South-Eastern section based on limestone and sandstone, and a South-Western section based on sandy marine deposits.

Many producers are already labelling their wines with the names of toponimi (referring to place names in the land register) and many more will follow. Even Biondi-Santi is proposing to reorganise its product range; this will not, as at present, reflect vine age, but reflect vineyard of origin. Bordeaux apart, in every other one of the ‘great B’ regions, the future looks parcellaire, as it has long been in Burgundy. Sub-regionality will be a point of interest even for those producers who intend to continue blending from vineyard sources in different zones of Montalcino, as Giancarlo Pacenti of Siro Pacenti confirmed. ‘I’m absolutely not against zoning. Maybe we can make more complex wines by blending complementary zones, but every sub-region has its different characteristics and those are definitely worth understanding.’

Another area where there may be some movement in the future concerns the different age categories of Montalcino’s wines. Everyone is happy with the performance of Rosso di Montalcino; indeed it is hard not to see its adoption (DOC from 1984) as a stroke of genius for any region which, like this one, makes a commitment to its consumers to sell them wine in a semi-mature state (such is the effect of the existing ageing requirements for Brunello di Montalcino).

Rosso serves at least four purposes. It’s a way of turning less propitiously sited vineyards, or young-vine plantings, to good effect; it serves as a ‘second wine’ to up the quality of Brunello itself, particularly after difficult harvests; it’s a useful entry point for debutant or modestly resourced consumers to taste something of the excitement of pure Sangiovese grown in this distinctive Tuscan zone; and it helps producers keep afloat financially by providing them with income while they finance the stocks which the Brunello rules require them to hold (at least five harvests doze in the cellar at any one time).

The Riserva category is a different matter. At present, only seven per cent of Brunello is held back to be marketed as Riserva, whose rules stipulate an extra year’s ageing; more than half the producers don’t bother with this category at all. There is a culture of legendary, time-defying Riserva wines for a few producers (Biondi-Santi has produced just 38 Riserva wines since 1888), but for many, the pinnacle of their work is considered to be Brunello itself. Brunello is the ‘grand vin’, and the Riserva is a kind of footnote or afterthought. Indeed it’s not unusual to hear both critics and consumers of Brunello express a preference for the year-five Brunello rather than the year-six-or-more Riserva wines, which are often alleged to be a little dry, hard and intellectual, lacking wealth and architecture of fruit.

So what’s to be done? It may seem counter-intuitive, but Stefano Cinelli Colombini of Fattoria dei Barbi, Vice President of the Consorzio, thinks that Riserva should become an even older wine than it at present is – one that was sold from around eight years, for example. In other words, a selected, cellar-aged wine to act as a counterpart to the wood-aged Brunello, and to act as a ‘super-premium’ alternative to Brunello, particularly for the Asian market. ‘I have often heard Chinese consumers say “Your wines are not expensive enough to be luxury wines”. We have an image problem for those consumers.’ Another possibility, perhaps, might be a tasting-based tier of wines in place of Riserva. It can’t have passed unnoticed in Montalcino that Chianti’s Gran Selezione seems to be a hit with consumers.

The one change which no one is proposing is the inclusion of any grape variety other than Sangiovese for Rosso di Montalcino, for Brunello di Montalcino or for the Riserva category. The trauma of the Brunellogate scandal of 2008 cauterised the region against the drift away from Sangiovese, and a huge plus point for Brunello is that this has now become the global reference for Sangiovese (even Chianti Classico can contain up to 20 per cent of ‘other’ varieties, including Cabernet and Merlot). The market mood regarding varietal intruders in Italy’s classic zones may have changed, in any case. Such varieties are allowed in Sant’Antimo, but this DOC struggles.

Look out for next May’s edition of Decanter for more on Montalcino, including tasting notes on a range of outstanding recent wines, and a reflection on the kind of uniqueness of scent and flavour that Brunello offers drinkers.

Read more Andrew Jefford columns here

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Brunello di Montalcino 2013: Top wines and vintage reviewpublished March 2018


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Wines to pair with duck and goose for Christmas

December 10, 2018 - 12:08am

Rich, fatty meats such as duck and goose demand more from a wine than the traditional turkey. See our recommendations and tips for a perfect pairing...

Roast goose is making a comeback on the Christmas dinner table.

Updated in 2018 with fresh wine recommendations. Scroll down to see them.

In brief: Pairing wines with Christmas duck and goose:
  • Chardonnay with at least some oak ageing
  • White Bordeaux
  • Chenin Blanc, such as Vouvray
  • Off-dry Riesling
  • Mature Châteauneuf-du-Pape 
  • Pinot Noir 
  • Fuller styles of Beaujolais, such as Morgon Cru
Search all Decanter wine reviews here

If you’re planning to serve either goose or duck for Christmas, then it’s worth considering that both are richer, fattier alternatives to turkey.

Goose is the traditional English bird for Christmas dinner, although it began to lose out to turkey in the UK during the Victorian era of the 19th Century.

Serving duck, on the other hand, can combine heaps of flavour while also suiting a smaller gathering around the Christmas dinner table.

White wines

When looking for wines to pair with these rich, fatty birds, you should focus on complex whites that can ‘cut through’ with their acidity.

This could be a white Burgundy with some bottle age or a Chardonnay from California or Australia with a relatively restrained amount of oak. A Loire Chenin should also stand up to the flavours.

For something a bit difference, an off-dry style of Riesling has the slight sweetness balanced by a backbone of acidity that could match the rich textures of the meat.

Red wines

Most medium-bodied reds with a good concentration of fruit and relatively high acidity should work well here. This is heartland Pinot Noir territory.

Be careful about going for a bold red with too much tannin, which is likely to overpower the flavours in the meat. There is of course a degree of subjectivity in all of this, but if you like bold, spicy reds then have you considered the idea of beef this Christmas?

If you go decide to go for a rosé, pick something with bolder, juicy fruit flavours. The delicacy of a Provence rosé could be overpowered here.

Christmas duck & goose wine picks:

Wines updated December 2018


function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } }


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Steven Spurrier’s wines of the month

December 9, 2018 - 6:00am

Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor hand-picked fine wines for drinking now and for the cellar, based on tastings that he has attended recently.

From the cellar The Spurrier selection function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } You may also like: Steven Spurrier’s top wine memories Château de Beaucastel wines for your cellar Producer Profile: Kumeu River

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Top Côte de Beaune 2017 en primeur wines

December 8, 2018 - 7:00am

Tim Atkin MW continues our Burgundy 2017 coverage by taking a look at the Côte de Beaune region in the southern part of the Côte d'Or. Scroll down for his report, including best producers and over 130 tasting notes & scores...

Giboulot vines in Clos du Roi, Beaune.


Scroll down to see Tim’s Côte de Beaune tasting notes & scores function trackVivino(wineId, initialAction) { if (window.ipc && window.ipc.utils) { const category = 'Premium'; const action = 'Vivino Buy '+initialAction; var label = wineId+ ' ~ Collection ~ '+initialAction; window.ipc.utils.trackEvent(category, action, label); } } See all Burgundy 2017 en primeur tasting notes & scores Return to the Burgundy 2017 en primeur hub page

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Top 20 sweet & fortified wines for Christmas

December 8, 2018 - 4:30am

It’s the ideal time to break out those delightful liquid treats. Andy Howard MW picks 20 of his favourites, arguing that we should all make more of the opportunity to discover the true quality they offer – with or without food…

One of the world’s great wine mysteries is why so few people drink sweet and fortified wines on a regular basis. If I am visiting a producer, I’m always keen to see whether they produce wines of this style, though it may take a bit of cajoling for an amazing, delicious bottle to be proffered. It’s a pity, as they often represent the ‘jewels in the crown’ of a particular producer, providing a clear insight into their philosophy, and the estate’s terroir.

Scroll down for Andy Howard MW’s top 20 sweet and fortified wines


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Toro: Tempranillo built like a bull

December 7, 2018 - 7:40am

In partnership with Castilla y Léon

Discover the history and the wine of Toro DO in Castilla y Léon...

Grapes in Toro.

In partnership with Castilla y Léon

History Royal cellars and dodging phylloxera

The Toro Denominación de Origen (DO) is named for the town of the same name, found in the Zamora province of northwest Castilla y Léon, just 40 miles from the Portuguese border.

The Duero river flows through Toro, connecting it to the neighbouring wine regions of Rueda and Ribero del Duero.

The Romans brought Vitis vinifera vines to Toro, arriving circa 210 BC. By the Middle Ages, Toro was renowned for its wine production and it was reportedly favoured by the highest in the land, filling the cellars of Spanish kings.

The DO claims it was even taken to the New World by Christopher Columbus, due to the robust wine’s ability to withstand long sea voyages.

When phylloxera hit Europe’s vineyards in the 19th century, Toro held a unique advantage in its poor sandy soils and arid climate, which provided some defence against the parasite. The region exported wine to badly affected areas of France during this period.

Toro still grows ungrafted pre-phylloxera bush vines today and many are over 80 years old.

Back to our Castilla y Léon page Wine Tempranillo

Tempranillo reigns supreme in Toro, offering a new expression of the wine compared to nearby Ribero del Duero or Rioja. As with many Spanish wine regions, Tempranillo goes by its local name here: Tinto de Toro.

Although there is no historical link between the DO’s name and its style of wine, critics often liken the best examples of Tinto de Toro to a Spanish bull — dark, sleek and richly muscular.

Toro’s summers are typically short, but during this season it becomes one of the hottest and driest wine regions in Spain, with only 350-400mm of rain each year and temperatures pushing 40°C.

In these conditions, altitude is key and the majority of Toro’s vineyards are planted between 620 and 750 metres above sea level.

Nevertheless, wineries must battle to keep alcohol levels down and DO regulations make allowances for up to 15% abv.

Toro does produce some rosé, or rosado, wine, made predominantly from a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and occasionally Malvasia. Most of the white wine production is left to its neighbour, Rueda, but Verdejo and Malvasia is also grown here.

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