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Updated: 1 hour 40 min ago

Cobb Wines: Playing the ‘Pinot Noir long-game’

9 hours 27 min ago

Will the quality and complexity of California Pinot Noir ever match that of Burgundy? Matthew Luczy, wine director at Mélisse Restaurant in Santa Monica, argues that Cobb's Pinot Noirs have an identity all of their own...

Ross Cobb admires the lineup of Pinot Noirs.Cobb Wines: Factbox

Year founded 2001, by Ross Cobb
Annual production 2,500 cases, 200 of which are Chardonnay and Riesling
Vineyard sites:

Coastlands (6ha planted, 350m elevation, 3 miles from the ocean)

Emmaline Ann(1.2ha planted, 228m elevation, 4 miles from the ocean)

Rice-Spivak (2.4ha planted, 107m elevation, 6 miles from the ocean).

All lie within ‘Freestone-Occidental’, a subregion of the Sonoma Coast awaiting AVA approval. All farming is certified sustainable.

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: Top Sonoma reds for the cellar Napa new releases to drink in 2019 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2016: Survivors in bottle

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Five things to know about Campo Viejo

10 hours 46 min ago

Promotional feature

It's one of the best-known names in Rioja, but here are five things that might surprise you about Campo Viejo

1. Invented the iconic ‘Rioja bottle’

José Ortigüela founded Campo Viejo as a premium Rioja brand in 1959, but he soon realised that a new kind of bottle was needed to reflect its bold and elegant style.

In 1961 Campo Viejo launched the classic Rioja bottle that has become a symbol of Spanish wine, gracing tables in over 50 countries around the world.

2. Carbon neutral pioneers

In 2012 Campo Viejo became the first Spanish winery to be certified as carbon neutral, leading the country’s wine industry towards a more sustainable future.

From cutting energy and water consumption to reusing organic by-products and protecting wildlife — Campo Viejo’s team work tirelessly to preserve the Rioja wine landscape for generations to come.

3. Winemakers led by women

Campo Viejo’s award-winning wines are made by a blend of three leading Rioja winemakers who happen to be women: Logroño-born Elena Adell has been the winemaking director since 1998, she is an expert agronomist who is dedicated to protecting quality and the environment. Passionate and innovative Clara Canals joined the winemaking team in 2011 after studying in France, South Africa and New Zealand.

Trained in both pharmacology and oenology, Campo Viejo’s newest winemaker Irene Perez combines scientific expertise with artistic creativity.

4. Underground winery

Campo Viejo has a cutting-edge winery with one unusual distinction – it is built almost entirely underground.

Not far from Rioja’s capital city, Logroño, the vast hidden winery has been constructed 20 metres beneath the earth’s surface, including barrel rooms and maturation cellars.

Aside from extraordinary architecture, the underground location provides natural insulation to keep temperatures constant, removing the need for an energy-guzzling cooling system.

5. A unique small batch experimental winery

Besides the main winery, Campo Viejo designed a specialised research centre where its winemaking team can study old traditions and shape the future of Rioja wines.

The team trials new grape varieties and winemaking techniques to find fresh expressions of the regional styles.

It was here that Campo Viejo created their trailblazing Tempranillo Blanco wine, bringing a lesser-known yet indigenous varietal to an overseas audience.


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Winners at the inaugural World Restaurant awards

13 hours 13 min ago

The first edition of the World Restaurant awards took place on 18 February 2019 in Paris.

Mugaritz, in San Sebastián, won the 'Forward Drinker' award

Restaurant of the Year was awarded to Wolfgat in South Africa, which also won the award for ‘off-beat destination.’

Wolfgat is a small, beach side restaurant in the Western Cape, which only offers 20 places per sitting, to keep their production sustainable, according to their website.

The food style is described as ‘seasonal, inspired by the weather, with a naturalist approach and minimum intervention’, and the judges said it ‘feels like a restaurant that’s giving back to the community.’

The winner of the ‘Forward drinking’ award went to Mugaritz in San Sebastián, of which judges said ‘Mugaritz’s wine programme is singularly ambitious. The restaurant’s cellar holds around 1,600 wines and some 90 sakes.’

The awards are divided into Big Plates winners – which aim to ‘champion excellence and integrity while trying to better promote the diversity of the world’s restaurant community’, according to World Restaurant Awards.

‘Small Plates’ winners recognise ‘contemporary cultural nuances’ and acknowledge the role of social media and attempts to subvert current gastronomic fashions. These include awards such as ‘tattoo-free chef of the year’ and ‘tweezer-free kitchen.’

The ‘Red wine serving restaurant’ went to wine bar Noble Rot in London, of which judges said ‘It’s hard not to fall in love with Noble Rot.’

It was praised as being ‘a driving force in making wine bars cool again, it does not fall into the trap – as so many fashionable new wave restaurants and wine bars do – of championing white wine over red.’

Top London wine bars – chosen by Decanter experts About the awards

The World Restaurant Awards were created by IMG in partnership with Joe Warwick and Andrea Petrini to ‘celebrate restaurants as culture, considered in the same way as film, art and music.’

See all of the winners at World Restaurants awards: Big Plates winners:

Restaurant of the Year
Winner: Wolfgat, Paternoster | South Africa

Arrival of the Year
Winner: Inua, Tokyo | Japan

Atmosphere of the Year
Winner: Vespertine, Los Angeles | United States

Collaboration of the Year
Winner: Paradiso X Gortnanain, Cork | Ireland

Enduring Classic
Winner: La Mère Brazier, Lyon | France

Ethical Thinking
Winner: Refettorio (Food For Soul), Various locations | Italy

Event of the Year
Winner: Refugee Food Festival, Paris (and worldwide) | France

House Special
Winner: Lido 84 (Cacio e Pepe), Lombardy | Italy

Forward Drinking
Winner: Mugaritz, San Sebastián | Spain

No Reservations Required
Winner: Mocotó, São Paulo | Brazil

Off-Map Destination
Winner: Wolfgat, Paternoster | South Africa

Original Thinking
Winner: Le Clerence, Paris | France

Small Plates winners:

Instagram Account of the Year
Winner: Alain Passard (@alain_passard), Paris | France

Long-Form Journalism
Winner: Lisa Abend, The Food Circus | Fool Magazine

Red-Wine Serving Restaurant
Winner: Noble Rot, London | United Kingdom

Tattoo-Free Chef
Winner: Alain Ducasse, Paris | France

Trolley of the Year
Ballymaloe House, Cork | Ireland

Tweezer-Free Kitchen
Winner: Bo.Lan, Bangkok | Thailand

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Bodegas Corral: at the heart of the Camino de Santiago

14 hours 3 min ago

Promotional featureThe art of winemaking; sharing experiences of culture and life

Altos de Corral vineyard, La Rioja

Established in the Middle Ages, the Camino de Santiago is a network of routes that Christian pilgrims followed to reach the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Still in use today, the pathways run through some of Spain’s classic winemaking regions – including Rioja.

The town of Navarette, in La Rioja was home to the Hospital de San Juan de Acre, a pilgrim hospital strategically located where two routes on the Camino de Santiago – the Camino del Norte (Northern Way) and Camino Francés (French Way) – meet. It was here that weary pilgrims stayed and shared their knowledge, contributing to the unique local winemaking culture of the area.

Today the ruins of the Hospital de San Juan de Acre can still be seen on the section of the Camino de Santiago that passes through the vineyards of Rioja producer Bodegas Corral. Perhaps this history helps to explain why the winery channels a deep understanding of the art of winemaking, a meeting of the ways and sharing of experiences, culture and life.

Don Sautumino Daroca, a farmer deeply rooted in the land of his native Rioja, funded the bodega in 1898. He planted the first vines in Sojuela, a village close to Navarrete. His daughter later married Don Martín Corral, whose name and coat of arms the winery still bears today.

Over the course of the following century, the bodega grew and developed. A new winery was built in Navarrete in 1974, as production demands increased, but the wines have never lost their artisanal identity.

A successful year

Last year was a very special year for Bodegas Corral because in addition to celebrating its 120th Anniversary in 2018, the winery achieved the highest recognition at two of the most prestigious international wine competitions: the International Wine Challenge (IWC) and the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC).

The Altos de Corral Single Estate Reserva 2010 was awarded the Spanish Red Trophy for the best Spanish red wine at the IWC. While Don Jacobo Gran Reserva 2004 was awarded the Gran Reserva Rioja Trophy for the best gran reserva Rioja at both the IWC and IWSC. Bodegas Corral was also shortlisted for Spanish Producer of the Year award at the IWSC.

Finally 2018 also saw a nomination for Bodegas Corral in the ‘Best Wine Tourism Activity’ category at the Bilbao-Rioja ‘Best of’ Wine Tourism awards, for its event ‘One Stop on the Road’.

Booking and information at:

Bodegas Corral – Km 10 on the Logroño road, 26370 – Navarrete, La Rioja (Spain)

Tel. +34 941 440 193


Websites /


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Montalcino winemaker Gianfranco Soldera dies

16 hours 51 min ago

One of Italy's greatest - and more controversial - fine wine producers, Gianfranco Soldera, has died at the age of 82.

Gianfranco Soldera

Soldera, owner of Case Basse winery, died on the morning of 16 February 2019, following a heart attack while driving near to his vineyards in Montalcino, according to Italian media reports.

While he will be remembered as one of Italy’s most outspoken winemakers, his wines also attained high acclaim and bottles of Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva have become some of the most sought after in the secondary market by collectors all over the world.

From an early stage, Soldera was also a strong believer in organic principles and refused to use chemical fertilisers in the vineyard. He preferred natural yeast in the winery, developing techniques that might find common ground with today’s ‘natural wine’ movement.

Early life

Soldera was born in Treviso in 1937 and arrived in Tuscany in the 1970s in a period that saw a new wave of non-indigenous producers, such as Banfi, Gaja and Molinari, enter the region.

He had formerly worked in Milan as an insurance broker.

Case Basse

He founded Case Basse in Tavernelle, a small village south-west of Montalcino and which lies more than 300 metres above sea level. The first Case Basse vines were planted in 1972 and 1973.

In this part of Montalcino the growing season is longer than in other villages of the denomination due to the extreme diurnal temperature variations.

Soldera farmed 23 hectares of vineyards next to his wife’s botanical garden, which the pair believed helped to create a complex ecosystem in which the vines could thrive.

Soldera was also known for his meticulous work in the vineyard; he consistently removed unnecessary growth from the start of the season through to harvest. This involved trimming shoots, leaves and bunches during the entire growing season.

In the winery, he believed in extremely low intervention, although oak barrels were always carefully monitored by Massimo Vincenzini, a microbiologist from the University of Florence.

Sabotage in the winery

In 2012, around 62,600 litres of Soldera’s Brunello di Montalcino vintages from 2007 to 2012 was intentionally destroyed. A former employee, Andrea Di Gisi, was subsequently jailed for sabotage.

Following the attack, the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino offered to supply wine for Soldera to sell, but the winemaker refused, arguing that this would not be fair to consumers. He resigned from the Consorzio and continued to make 100% Sangiovese wine as Tuscany IGP.

Soldera was known for having his own ideas, such as his insistence on resting bottles standing upright rather than lying down. He reputedly only went to restaurants with his own glasses and he was believed to have only drunk his own wines and those of just two or three other producers.

However, he produced some of the most elegant wines from Montalcino that will live beyond his years.

Editing by Chris Mercer. 

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The Decanter interview: Raúl Pérez

February 18, 2019 - 8:38am

Is this the world’s best winemaker? Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW investigates...

Raúl Pérez, pictured in his hometown of Valtuille de Abajo in Bierzo.

With family roots firmly in Spain’s remote northwestern Bierzo region, Raúl Pérez’s minimal-intervention methods and their extraordinary results have rapidly propelled him to the status of global champion.

There are three kinds of winemaking genius. First, the classicists: those who excel in applying what they have learned from their masters and reaching higher levels of refinement. They are behind the great classic wines.

Top wines from Raúl Pérez

Tasted by Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW and Sarah Jane Evans MW


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: Top Spanish Mencía wines: panel tasting results Discovering Spain’s new winemakers Spain’s top 40 Tempranillo wines

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Comment: Time to look beyond what you know

February 17, 2019 - 7:58am

Why Hugh Johnson is always wondering what's next in wine...

I’ve celebrated new grapes, new regions and new ideas of all sorts. The question is always, what next?

At this time of year I’m head-down in my next Pocket Wine Book. It’s the 43rd time I’ve done it, and no, it doesn’t get monotonous.

When I say ‘I’, by the way, it’s really a big ‘we’. Every year Margaret Rand commissions and collates revised material from our 30-odd correspondents round the world; Hilary Lumsden edits them; I pore over them, compare them with my own recent experiences, do a lot of fussy subbing, cut out any disposable words without mercy (‘mineral’ is a frequent one) and round it off with my annual ‘Agenda’; a summary of what strikes me as new, different, better or worse. Even ideas for improvements.

This is the tricky bit. There are a thousand changes I could mention: of style, ownership, quality, maturity… But can I detect a theme, or themes? Over 40 years I’ve described many, and got quite shirty about some of them. I’m not averse to sharing the credit when, for example, the world notices that wines are getting too samey, too strong, or too oaky.

I’ve celebrated new grapes, new regions and new ideas of all sorts. The question is always, what next?

My hunch is that we should look east – and not just to the arrival of China on the wine scene. It is scarcely news these days when vines are planted yet higher in the Andes, or Pinot Noir does well as far south as you can go in Australia. Sicily now makes very fine wines. South Africa is on the quality level of California – and often above it.

But what about the countries in Europe that have been at it for centuries and were eclipsed for 50 years by communism?

Austria was the first to emerge definitively as belonging in the first rank. Then Greece took its bow with a giant leap no one could have anticipated. Hungary, with its own elaborate wine culture, masked by names we can’t pronounce, is still only half-understood. What is holding back Romania and Bulgaria? Nothing, I’m sure, that translation and time can’t straighten out. As for Slovenia and Croatia, natural advantages of their geography and climate will soon see their wines compared with Italy’s.

I know not everyone is blessed (or is it cursed?) with my nosiness – wanting to stick my nose, that is, into every wine in reach.

But how boring to stick with what you know; pizza every day, roast on Sundays. I am intrigued when new foods appear on the high street, new wines on the shelves. Aren’t you?

Hugh Johnson OBE is a world-renowned wine writer

See also: Comment: Sheer curiosity drives me to try every English bubbly Jefford: Are you a label drinker?

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Sherry country’s quiet revolution

February 17, 2019 - 5:00am

Sarah Jane Evans MW is excited to witness a quiet revolution in Jerez, driven by outside investment, a renewed focus on terroir and the development of different wine styles...

Bodegas Barbadillo

In the sunshine of Jerez, within the city’s historic Alcázar fortress, a remarkable sherry tasting took place last summer. Entering the Mezquita inside – the mosque that was turned into a church in 1264 – I had no idea of the significance of what was to unfold. The Mezquita is small, circular and very picturesque, but not the easiest venue for a tasting. Never mind, we were engrossed. At the end, there was a prolonged ovation: not the typical reaction to a wine tasting.

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Pinot Noir blends – Ask Decanter

February 16, 2019 - 7:00am

Why don't we see Pinot Noir much as a blend in still wines?

Lindsay Dawn Schultz, by email, asks: The only red blend I’ve ever come across that contains Pinot Noir is Silk (66% Pinot, 18% Malbec and 16% Petite Sirah) from California’s Ménage à Trois label. Why are Pinot Noir blends so rare, and are there any other red blends you know of that contain Pinot Noir?

Andy Howard MW replies: It is certainly true that red blends are rarely made with Pinot Noir, although it’s clear that Pinot blends well as it is a major component in many top Champagnes. Why is this?

The answer is in part related to Pinot Noir’s unique character – thin skins, pale colour, refinement and elegance, silky tannins, a complex and distinctive nose, notable acidity, ageworthiness and high quality. Winemakers want to make wines that emphasise these qualities, rather than dilute them with other varieties.

Commercially, Pinot Noir is a strong ‘brand’ and most producers prefer to focus on 100% varietal Pinot as this is a better marketing message. Growing conditions provide another reason as the key requirements for successful Pinot viticulture are different to many of the varieties more commonly used in blending – Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo.

You’re right that there are few blends using Pinot Noir – however, a particularly delicious one is Doña Paula’s Blue Edition Velvet Blend – an Argentinian blend of Malbec, Pinot Noir and Bonarda. California also has a history of blending in some Syrah – a wine labelled Pinot Noir can legally be just 75% Pinot Noir (although this generally applies to cheaper wines).

Meanwhile, the French AC of Bourgogne Passe-tout-grains must contain at least one-third Pinot Noir, but here it must be blended with Gamay prior to fermentation.

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

More wine questions answered here

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Regional profile: Terra Alta

February 16, 2019 - 4:00am

With its high vineyards and limestone soils, this large Catalonian DO makes distinctive whites from the Garnatxa Blanca grape. Miquel Hudin takes us on a tour of the region and introduces the top producers and wines to look out for…

Vineyards in the DO Terra ALta.

Only a foolish Catalan politician would mention how Catalonia ends at the Ebro river – and only the most foolish among them would say such a thing while standing south of said river. Blustery populism aside, Catalonia does not end at the Ebro; instead it actually rises sharply from it. These distant hinterlands – some 175km inland to the west and a nod to the south from hip, touristic Barcelona – represent a very different side of Catalonia compared to the sunny, selfie-prone beaches that are familiar to most.

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 Great value Spanish wines under £30
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California: Bob Lindquist parts with Qupé and creates new project

February 15, 2019 - 7:00am

Respected California winemaker Bob Lindquist has parted ways with the Qupé wine venture that he founded in the 1980s and has set up a new project named Lindquist Family Wines.

The new Lindquist Family Wines range will use a linden tree as its logo. In Swedish, Lindquist literally translates to linden, or lime twig, said a statement.

Qupé, which is known for its wines from Rhône grape varieties, was bought by Vintage Wine Estates in late 2018 and Bob Lindquist had been set to stay as a consultant winemaker. But the plan has not worked out.

‘It is with heavy hearts that we announce Bob is no longer a partner in, or the winemaker for, Qupé Wine Cellars,’ said a statement emailed this week by Lindquist and his wife, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist of Verdad wines, to wine club members and contacts.

Lindquist founded Qupé in 1982 and, in 1989, built a winery with friend Jim Clendenen, of Au Bon Climat.

Now, Lindquist has started a new label named Lindquist Family Wines.

The statement described the new venture as ‘going back to Bob’s roots and focusing on cool climate Rhône varietals and Chardonnay from organic and biodynamic vineyards’.

Bob Lindquist told, ‘We’ll continue making the wines (Verdad, Sawyer Lindquist and Lindquist) at the winery that I’ve shared with Jim Clendenen for the last 30 years; what we call CLV, or Clendenen Lindquist Vintners.’

On the split with Qupé, he added, ‘I had hoped to stay on and continue making the wines for them, but that didn’t work out. So Qupé will now be made by them at a different winery facility here on the Central Coast.’

Vintage Wine Estates bought the Qupé brand and current inventory from Terroir Life in November 2018 for an undisclosed fee. Lindquist had sold a controlling stake in Qupé to Terroir Life in 2013.

The Lindquists said that they would continue running their wine club, which will now be known as the Lindquist Family & Verdad wine club.

A first shipment of wines from the new-look club will be available from the first week in March.

Club members may occasionally see a ‘Qupé library wine’ in their shipment, said the couple. ‘[We] hope to continue to offer a selection of Qupé wines in the [winery] tasting room,’ they added.

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Japanese Koshu: Wines to try

February 15, 2019 - 2:30am

Koshu is Japan's native grape variety. Could its time be coming? Low in alcohol, crisp and delicate, it certainly ticks a lot of boxes...

Koshu is Japan's only indigenous grape variety, although its origins aren't entirely known.

Japan may be better known for its sake, but its national grape, Koshu, has been picking up awards for several years, mostly under the radar.

It may be surprising to know that, although a relatively new style to Western audiences, it has actually been produced by Japanese wineries for over a century. Distribution over here is still a bit sketchy, but we have picked out some top wines tasted recently that should be available outside of Japan.

It’s a must-try for fans of Loire whites such as Sancerre and Saumur Blanc, thanks to its crisp acidity and apple and citrus flavours but Koshu is very much its own grape.

Japanese Koshu wines to try:


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Bittersweet results for French wine exports

February 15, 2019 - 2:00am

Shipments of French wine rose to nearly 9bn euros in 2018, but there was a marked fall in exports to China and Brexit has left producers in a ‘fog’ over the important UK market.

French wine exports rose by 2.6% in 2018 to €8.9bn, said the nation’s wine and spirits export body (FEVS) this week.

But, exports dropped by 4.6% versus the previous year in volume terms. This was partly blamed on small 2017 harvests in several regions of France.

Figures also showed a 25% drop in French wine shipments to China in 2018, with the value of exports to the country down by 16.4%, at €555.3m.

FEVS blamed this on wider economic conditions and said that it remained confident in China’s long-term potential as a market.

It was Brexit that dominated discussion around this week’s press conference in Paris. FEVS head Antoine Leccia reportedly told Associated Press that wine producers were in a ‘total fog’ – such was the ongoing uncertainty over the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

There have been several reports of stockpiling in the UK, with both European producers keen to get extra stock across the English Channel and British merchants ordering extra supplies in case of disruption.

For example, retailer Majestic Wine said last November that it would bring in up to £8m of extra wine in its current financial year, which runs to the end of March, to cover any potential disruption.

French wine exports to the UK fell by 7% in volume in 2018, show FEVS figures.

However, in value terms, exports rose by 0.6% in 2018, to €1.1bn, with the UK remaining the second largest destination for French wines in the world by value.

Exports to the number one market, the US, rose by 6.4% to €1.66bn.

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Penfolds owner Treasury wants more French wines for China

February 14, 2019 - 4:53am

Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has said that it wants to sell more luxury French wines to China to build on growth in the country’s wine market.

A vertical garden in the city of Xi'an. TWE is confident that China's thirst for wine will grow.
  • Asia helps to drive Treasury Wine Estates sales and profits growth
  • Company wants bigger slice of French wine market in China
  • New French export figures show overall drop in shipments to China in 2018

Demand for luxury wines in Asia helped Penfolds owner TWE to report a 16% rise in group net sales to just over A$1.5bn for the first half of its financial year.

The region also helped to drive the wine firm’s global operating profits, or EBITS, up by 19% for the six months, to $338m.

Momentum in China remained strong, the firm said, despite broader concerns about the country’s short-term economic outlook.

The company said that it plans to use its distribution muscle in China to break further into the lucrative market for French wine in the country over the next few years.

‘The French category [in China] is one where the company is particularly focused on gaining share given it is the largest import category, accounting for around 30 to 40% of the market, and remains highly fragmented,’ TWE said.

‘TWE will aim to build on its existing French country of origin proposition, Maison de Grand Esprit, using the Penfolds and Beaulieu Vineyard brands.’

The group launched Maison de Grand Esprit in 2017 as a brand that could bring together luxury wines from top vineyards across France, including those in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône and Provence.

TWE’s confidence and recent results in China struck a contrasting tone with comments from France’s wine and spirits exports body (FEVS) this week, highlighting why it can often be difficult to generalise when considering experiences on the Chinese wine market.

FEVS figures showed that overall French wine exports to China fell by 16% in value in 2018, dropping to €555.3m. Shipments to Hong Kong, which are counted separately, rose by 9% versus 2017.

Things were worse in volume terms, with the quantity of French wine shipments to China down by 25% in 2018.

However, FEVS blamed China’s current economic conditions for the falls and said that it still expected wine exports to the country to recover and prosper over the long-term.

See also:

Penfolds to make Napa Valley wine and Champagne

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Ornellaia restaurant gains first Michelin star

February 14, 2019 - 3:12am

The Zurich-based restaurant owned by Tuscan wine estate Ornellaia has been awarded its first star in the new Michelin Switzerland guide for 2019.

Ornellaia’s eponymous Zurich restaurant has been open since April 2018 and serves Italian food and wines.

‘These 10 months have been intense ones for us,’ said chef Giuseppe D’Errico.

‘The Ornellaia estate has supported us 100%, and I personally have poured into our creation all my Italianità and the professional expertise I gained at Alma and in France. Great credit goes my team here, who have exhibited immense passion and commitment to the work we all love.’

Among the Ornellaia wines on the restaurant’s list is the winery’s 2015 vintage, priced at 245 euros-a-bottle. There is also Masseto, plus Bindella from Tenuta Vallocaia.

One of the dishes served at the restaurant. Credit:

The Swiss Michelin guide called it a ‘gem of a restaurant’ and praised ‘its upmarket modern Tuscan interior and professional front-of-house team.

‘Staff in the show kitchen prepare authentic Italian cuisine that is full of imagination and made using the very best produce,’ it added.

Growing numbers of winery-owned restaurants are getting recognition from Michelin.

In the Michelin France 2019 guide, the Perrin family’s L’Oustalet restaurant in the Rhône and Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s newly opened ‘Lalique’ in Sauternes gained stars.

See also: Ornellaia reveals artist designs for 2016 vintage Michelin starred restaurants in ski resorts


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Anson: How Bordeaux 2009 wines taste now

February 14, 2019 - 2:24am

Jane Anson reports on how the Bordeaux 2009 vintage is tasting 10 years on. Have the wines lived up to the initial hype at the time of their release?

How is Bordeaux 2009 stacking up against 2005 and 2010?

I have awarded four 100-point scores, one 99 and seven 98s from the 67 Bordeaux 2009 wines retasted.

See all wines from the tasting here Tasting Bordeaux 2009 wines: 10 years on – the top scorers:


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 wines from the tasting here

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New Zealand Pinot Noir wines to seek out

February 13, 2019 - 9:24am

Decanter's Tina Gellie picks your next New Zealand Pinots to try...

Pinot Noir grows at its best in cooler climates – think Burgundy and Champagne – which is why it fares well in New Zealand, especially in regions such as Marlborough and Central Otago.

New Zealand has developed a reputation for the quality of its Pinot Noir in recent years, and they can offer great value for money compared to the old world competition, typically offering a fragrant aroma with flavours of cherry, raspberry and brambles.

The following wines showcase some top picks for drinking in 2019 and beyond, from the full-bodied, rich expressions of Central Otago to the weighty concentration of Martinborough and the balanced elegance of Marlborough.

See also: Why you need to think again about New Zealand wine

Rebecca Gibb MW says ‘there’s plenty to be excited about… from Martinborough and Central Otago in particular,’ in her New Zealand 2016 reds vintage report.

New Zealand Pinot Noir wines to seek out:


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 also: A wine lover’s guide to Hawke’s Bay New Zealand whites: 2018 vintage report Top New Zealand Pinot Noirs for your cellar

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Insider guide: Rioja restaurants

February 13, 2019 - 5:00am

The wines of this famous Spanish region are among the world’s best-loved. But if you’re on holiday in the area, where do you find the best wines and food? Laura Seal asks those in the know: the local winemakers


Sprawling across more than 60,000ha of vineyards and gathering together almost 600 of the country’s wineries, the region of Rioja is synonymous with Spanish wine culture. Visitors to the region will notice, however, that its undulating hills are also a rich tapestry of olive and almond groves, fertile farmland and grazing grounds. It’s the produce of this land that feeds Rioja’s burgeoning gastronomy scene, where a new wave of Basque cuisine meets centuries-old tabernas and pintxos bars.

Travelling through Rioja, the striking architecture of wineries such as Marqués de Riscal and Bodegas Ysios makes them hard to miss, but finding the best places to eat in the area requires some local guidance. Top winemakers from Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental (formerly Baja) share their favourite places to dine – from Logroño’s tapas trail, to ancient Laguardia and hidden gems in the surrounding municipalities. Scroll down to find out more about the winemakers asked. 

Logroño: tapas trail

Pilgrims have passed through the cobbled streets of Logroño’s old town since the Middle Ages and it still bears scallop shell symbols to mark the famous Camino de Santiago. Tabernas that were built to give sustenance to weary walkers now serve another clientele – the tapas crawlers. The Spanish tradition of ‘chateo’, or tapas bar hopping, thrives in these winding streets centred around Calle Laurel, where throngs of locals and travellers clamour for plates of pintxos and copas of house wine.

Bar Soriano
  • 2 Travesía de Laurel, Logroño 26001
  • +34 941 22 88 07

‘Soriano is a place of simple decor with a tapas bar running the entire length of the room. There is a large grill where they prepare their famous house pintxo – a little tower of mushrooms on bread topped with prawns and garlic, ideal for non-meat eaters. This bar has a changing selection of about 10 wines, mostly red Rioja crianzas.’ Cristina Forner

  • 3 Avenida Portugal, Logroño 26001

‘A sensational and relatively new addition to the Logroño restaurant scene, the interior is bright, simple and elegant – just like its cooking. Ikaro’s cuisine is avant-garde; meticulously and elaborately created by two young chefs. Select the tasting menu to get the full experience, then you can stop thinking and let yourself go. The wine list is well crafted, with a good selection of producers. I recommend bringing someone here for a special treat or occasion.’ Elena Adell

La Taberna de Baco
  • 10 Calle San Agustín, Logroño 26001
  • +34 941 21 35 44

‘The two owners of this eatery are very attentive and always take good care of their diners. I have been coming to La Taberna de Baco on Calle San Agustín for 20 years and my daughter Paola used to play with their adorable cat when she was little. Expect classic cocina Riojana in the form of rustic casseroles, as well as tapas that fuse Riojan and Mediterranean traditions. Look out for the suckling lamb chops, pork cheeks, fresh anchovies and homemade croquettes. All of the vegetables are garden-fresh and seasonal. Importantly, there is a good assortment of wines to accompany anything you choose from the menu.’ Cristina Forner

Pan y Vino
  • 23 Avenida Portugal, Logroño 26001

‘A small, cosy and traditional restaurant in Logroño’s Casco Viejo (old town), Pan y Vino is one of my favourite places to eat. Its cuisine is based on seasonal produce, specialising in fish and meat – I have never eaten pig knuckle as good as the one they serve here. As the name suggests, there is also an adequate selection of wines to go with each dish.’ Elena Adell

Pata Negra
  • 24 Calle del Laurel, Logroño 26001
  • +34 941 21 36 45

‘Named after the famous Iberian jamón, Pata Negra’s appetisers offer interesting combinations of Jabugo ham, sausages and smoked cheeses, as well as salads and traditional tapas. Pata Negra has a rustic feel with a single dining room and several tables. There are more than 70 wines available by the glass and they stock bottles from over 200 different producers.’ Cristina Forner

Taberna Herrerías
  • 24 Calle Herrerías, Logroño 26001

‘This taberna is set inside a renovated 16th- century palace, which is located in the historic centre of Logroño, next to the most beautiful romanesque church in the city, San Bartolomé. The cuisine here is traditional and always based on seasonal produce; I love everything they have to offer, especially the vegetables. But what’s really special about this taberna is that the owners have managed to strike a balance between classic and modern cuisines, so whatever your taste you’ll be able to find something to enjoy.’ Elena Adell

Laguardia: Basque culture

Upon entering Laguardia through one of the openings in its ancient walls, visitors are immediately transported to an older and more mysterious side of Rioja, characterised by its well-preserved Basque traditions. This 10th-century fortress town offers simple and authentic Riojan cuisine, focused on seasonal produce from the surrounding farmland.

Entre Viñas y Olivos
  • 12 Calle Cuatro Cantones, Laguardia 01300

‘This is one of Laguardia’s secrets, tucked away in the old town in a very ancient manor house, where wine and olive oil were once produced. Ask for a guided tour of its underground stone cellars, dating back to the 18th century. The tapas dishes are very good quality; it’s as if you can taste the history of the building in their flavours. When people visit me at the winery, I like to take them for a walk around Laguardia and bring them here for wine and tapas – the jamón and olive oil are delicious.’ Julio Sáenz

Héctor Oribe
  • 5 Calle Gasteiz, Páganos 01309
  • +34 945 60 07 15

‘I love that this restaurant changes its menu depending on what’s seasonally available in terms of vegetables or wild game. The dining room is small and cosy with well-arranged tables and there is an excellent selection of reasonably priced wines. It’s perfect for family or a small group of friends, but it’s not the place for a large rowdy crowd. Occasionally I come here for an informal work meal, as it’s right next to Bodega Torre de Oña.’ Julio Sáenz

Restaurante El Medoc Alavés
  • 15 Paseo San Raimundo, Laguardia 01300
  • +34 945 60 05 60

‘This is similar in style to Héctor Orribe, but a little more elegant. The wine list is very good, although the prices are somewhat higher. It’s a spacious restaurant that is very well lit, friendly and cosy. You’ll find traditional food but with a modern twist. I have many happy memories of meals at El Medoc, and we recently celebrated the birthday of one of my children here.’ Julio Sáenz

Rioja’s hidden gems

Rioja is known for its grandiose wineries and bustling tapas trails, but to get a real flavour of the region, venture into the surrounding area. Despite their sleepy appearance, the old towns boast some of the region’s best foodie destinations – from Michelin stars to dining in a cave.

La Taberna de la Cuarta Esquina
  • 17 Calle las Navas, 26500 Calahorra
  • +34 941 13 43 55

‘Calahorra is the most important city to the east of Rioja, known for its Roman ruins and the quality of its vegetables – it even has a museum dedicated to them, Museo de la Verdura. La Taberna de la Cuarta Esquina offers the best food in the area, with delicious stews and seasonal ingredients. It also has impressive fish dishes, such as bacalao al ajoarriero and hake that took my breath away. These dishes can be accompanied by local rosados, but personally I love them with my own Garnacha Tinta wine, a red wine that harmonises perfectly with both vegetables and fish.’ Gonzalo Rodríguez

Mesón Chomin
  • Calle la Fuentecilla, 26290 Briñas

‘Set in the beautiful village of Briñas, Méson Chomin is 100% traditional Riojan. It has a family-run, friendly atmosphere and serves all the traditional dishes in large portions. This is not a fashionable- looking place but it has a rustic aesthetic; its name ‘mesón’ means a modest tavern. What is really important here is the cooking, and the impeccable Riojan flavours remind me of my grandmother in her kitchen. Try the pochas, caparrones and patatas a la Riojana, but without a doubt the star dish on the menu is the menestra stew – the perfect representation of Rioja. The best thing about Mesón Chomin’s wine list is that most bottles are from the surrounding Rioja Alta region: you’ll see producers from Briñas, Haro and Labastida. It’s a simple but food-friendly wine list.’ Rodolfo Bastida

Restaurante Sopitas
  • 4 Calle Carrera, 26580

‘Arnedo, the third-largest town in Rioja, has one of the most intriguing restaurants in the whole region. From the outside it looks like any other restaurant, but once you cross the threshold you descend into a hidden grotto. Alcoves have been carved into the stone walls, and these can be reserved for a more intimate dinner with friends or family. As for the menu, the jamón Ibérico croquettes here are delicious, although the star dishes are regional offerings such as suckling goat – perhaps the best I have tasted in the north of Spain. Restaurante Sopitas is a great place to open a Rioja wine from an older vintage – they have their own bodega here and each bottle is its own adventure.’ Gonzalo Rodríguez

Venta Moncalvillo
  • 6 Ctra de Medrano, 26373 Daroca de Rioja

‘Venta Moncalvillo is a Michelin-starred restaurant in what feels like the smallest town in the world. But the experience here could rival any European capital. It is a must-visit for lovers of good gastronomy during their visit to Rioja. The owners, Ignacio and Carlos Echapresto, have become great friends of mine. Ignacio leads the kitchen. Vegetables grown in the garden, wild mushrooms collected from the mountain and delicious wild game dishes all create an edible picture of Rioja’s landscape. Few sommeliers know more about Rioja wine than Ignacio’s brother, Carlos. He has created a wine list with more than 1,000 Spanish and international references. I have had some of the best wines of my life here and Carlos always delights me with his discoveries.’ Rodolfo Bastida

When to visit

You may want to avoid August, when temperatures are hottest and some wineries close their doors to visitors, whereas you’ll experience Rioja at its liveliest during the notorious ‘wine fight’, Batalla del Vino, which takes place in Haro at the end of June. Alternatively you can take part in the harvest festival, which encompasses fiestas across the region and begins on around 21 September every year.

Rioja is arguably at its most beautiful in autumn when its vineyards become a blaze of burnt ochre and crimson. But if you prefer, plan a winter visit to see the Cantabrian Mountains in their snowcapped glory – with the added bonus that there will be more reservations available at top restaurants and wineries.

Getting there

The closest airport to Rioja is Bilbao, and it’s advisable to rent a car from here; the drive is about 90 minutes to Logroño. There are also direct public transport links by train and bus.


Meet the experts
  • Elena Adell Chief winemaker at Bodegas Campo Viejo, which is located on the outskirts of Logroño
  • Rodolfo Bastida Director general and winemaker at Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, based in Rioja Alta
  • Cristina Forner Fourth-generation winemaker at Bodegas Marqués de Cáceres, just outside Logroño
  • Gonzalo Rodríguez Chief winemaker at Barón de Ley, situated in Rioja Oriental (formerly Baja)
  • Julio Sáenz Winemaker at Bodega Torre de Oña, which is located just outside Laguardia

Laura Seal is a freelance writer who travels regularly in Spain


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Foley Family Wines to buy NZ Pinot maker Mt Difficulty

February 13, 2019 - 2:24am

California’s Foley Family Wines has been cleared by officials in New Zealand to buy Pinot Noir producer Mt Difficulty for around US$35 million.

Mt Difficulty wine tasting room and vineyards, in 2015.

New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office (OIO) said it has approved Foley’s purchase of Mt Difficulty for NZ$52m (US$35m).

The deal includes 70ha of freehold land and 110ha of leasehold land in Central Otago.

California-based Foley Family Wines is majority owned by Bill Foley and his wife, Carol, and already has several New Zealand wine interests. The group also bought Diageo’s Chalone Estate Vineyard in California in 2016, while Bill Foley owns the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team.

Mt Difficulty offers a major foothold in Central Otago, a key region for premium Pinot Noir.

The producer is particularly known for its Pinot Noir, including single vineyard bottlings, and its Roaring Meg label, which includes Pinot Noir and Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

OIO officials said that they spent eight-and-a-half months considering the Foley acquisition plan. It said that the firm was required to make changes to some of its proposals, but did not specify what.

It added that Foley plans to expand the Mt Difficulty restaurant and cellar door, and will seek to expand exports of Mt Difficulty wines.

Separately, the OIO said that Foley intended to expand its existing Te Kairanga estate in Martinborough and expand production capacity at its Grove Mill winery in Marlborough.

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Silverado Vineyards owner and ex-Disney CEO Ron Miller dies

February 12, 2019 - 8:08am

Tributes have been paid to Ron Miller, son-in-law to Walt Disney and co-founder of Silverado Vineyards in Napa Valley, who has died aged 85.

Ron Miller at a Walt Disney Family Museum gala dinner in San Francisco in 2017.

Ron Miller, who was also president of the board of directors at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and had previously been Disney CEO, died in Napa, California, announced the team at Silverado Vineyards.

Miller and his wife, Diane Disney Miller, founded Silverado Vineyards in 1981, together with Disney Miller’s mother, Lillian Disney.

They built up the winery during a transformational period for California and its standing in the wine world.

‘Since its first vintage, Silverado has won a fine reputation for consistent and full-bodied Cabernets from Stags Leap District,’ wrote Decanter contributing editor Stephen Brook last year.

Miller is survived by his seven children, plus 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife, Diane, died in 2013.

Ron Miller, co-founder of Silverado Vineyards with his wife, Diane Disney Miller. Credit: Silverado Vineyards.

The Walt Disney connection

Miller was a 21-year-old American football player for the University of Southern California when he met 20-year-old Diane Disney on a blind date. They married in Santa Barbara on 9 May, 1954.

After a period in the army and playing football professionally for Los Angeles Rams, he was recruited by his father-in-law to work at Walt Disney studios.

Miller is credited with helping to lead the expansion of the business following Walt Disney’s death in 1966.

As CEO of the Walt Disney Co between between 1978 and 1984, he drove the creation of Disney home video, Touchstone Pictures and the Disney Channel, as well as a move into computer animation.

‘Everyone at The Walt Disney Company is deeply saddened by the passing of Ron Miller,’ said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co.

‘Few people had Ron’s understanding of our history, or a deeper appreciation and respect for our company, and he shared it generously with anyone who wanted to know more. I was fortunate to have known him, and even luckier to have called him a friend. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.’

In 2009, he helped to establish the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco.

Silverado Vineyards said that the museum has set up a memorial fund to receive donations in tribute to Miller’s life.

Both Ron Miller and his wife were known for their philanthropy, notably in the areas of classical music and ballet.

Beyond film and wine, Miller also enjoyed skiing, fishing, hunting and golf.

See also:  Travel guide: Riding Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail

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