Decanter The world’s most prestigious wine website, including news, reviews, learning, food and travel Fri, 21 Apr 2023 16:38:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Decanter 32 32 How much do you know about Spanish Wine? Fri, 21 Apr 2023 16:00:11 +0000

Join the Spanish Wine Master programme...

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In 2020, Ramón Bilbao launched a digital platform as part of their ground- breaking project to educate consumers about the diversity of Spanish wines. Underpinned by the mantra that ‘the more you learn about something, the more you love it’, the Spanish Wine Academy has been a massive hit with oenophiles worldwide. Now, after three years of innovative masterclasses and superlative wines, Ramón Bilbao is poised to unveil its Spanish Wine Master programme: a vinous competition to end all competitions.

The Spanish Wine Master challenges even the most experienced of wine professionals. It is a pan-global competition, taking place in four key destinations: Spain, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and the UK. Ramón Bilbao is certain that this exciting – and unparalleled – opportunity to flex your scholastic muscles will attract a diverse pool of applicants – sommeliers, buyers, journalists, bartenders and wine lovers are all encouraged to apply. Designed by wine expert Elisa Errea from The Wine Studio, the competition will be broken down into three stages, reaching a grand finale in the summer of 2023, when the top ten finalists of each country will compete to be this year’s Spanish Wine Master.

However, there will be plenty of viticultural athletics leading to the final. Running from late-March until the end of May, an online test (50 questions) on the intricacies of Spanish wines will allow candidates to prove their mettle and secure a place in the semi-final. Fifty semi-finalists per country will then take part in an online tasting competition, hosted by a TV presenter. The 50 participants will each receive a Spanish Wine Master sample kit, containing five different wines from Ramón Bilbao and other leading producers. Designed to test the limits of your palate, only ten finalists will make it through to the final stage. That event, due to take place in June (July in the UK), will involve a tasting competition in front of an expert panel, including Ramón Bilbao’s winemaker Rodolfo Bastida. In each market, only one person will emerge victorious – a true wine master.

Rodolfo Bastida, Ramón Bilbao’s winemaker

The competition is the latest in a series of pioneering innovations from Rioja’s leading bodega, including the launch (in 2020) of a trio of single-vineyard labels under the brand name Lalomba, crafted by winemaker Rosana Lisa. Produced in very small quantities, critics now regard them as among the finest wines produced in Spain today. With a passion for both tradition and progress, Ramón Bilbao is a winery fit for our diverse age.

Find out more about
The Spanish Wine Master competition

More from the Spanish Wine Academy

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Washington State Wines - Sustainable, by nature Fri, 21 Apr 2023 14:00:59 +0000

Committed to building a resilient future...

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Sustainability has become an ubiquitous term, namely in the wine sector, often loosely used, seldom fully understood. Many wine regions have recently jumped on the bandwagon, in an effort to reassure consumers of their newfound green accolades. The true sustainability champions, however, have been consistently committed to the environmental and social best practices that shape a common better future, without fuss but with steadfast determination.

Among such pioneers is Washington State, whose long history of commitment to sustainability and long term awareness is founded upon both the region’s natural conditions and the culture of its winemaking community.

Nature as a fierce ally 

Sustainable viticulture is a fundamental part of Washington State’s DNA not least due to the environmental conditions that naturally prevent the propagation of many insects, fungal diseases and harmful vegetation. This presented both the opportunity and responsibility to embrace mindful viticultural approaches with a focus on the preservation of this natural balance. Applying the same approach to other of the pillars of sustainability was simply an inevitable step, and one that resonated with the already prevailing ethos.

The consolidation of the inherent sustainable practices took form in the state’s own certification programme, Sustainable WA, rooted in an educational sustainability program, Vinewise® and Winerywise™, created over two decades ago and intentionally scalable for certification.

But if Sustainable WA shows the institutional side of the state’s proactive approach to mindful viticultural, winemaking, operational and social practices, its structure is based upon a strong grassroots movement. The individual determination of producers has catalysed a statewide culture of awareness and proactive action, seen not just in the number of certified stakeholders, but also in the multiple, singular case studies of strategic action.

Holistic understanding of present and future challenges

Many of these efforts involve challenging assumptions and consumers expectations by adopting a non-nonsense, evidence-based approach. An example of which can be seen in the ‘World Class in Lighter Glass’ initiative, championed by Kiona Vineyards, that commits to use of lightweight bottles and adopts an educational approach, underlining that a high quality wine is in no way correlated with a heavy bottle.

One of the greatest achievements of the region is to build a comprehensive resilience for the future – the essence of sustainable development. A big part of which is done through the consolidation of a strong sense of community and the education of the next generation of growers and producers. These are the premises of initiatives such as the Farmer Ambassador Program, the Alliance of Women in Washington Wine and the groundbreaking wine research program at Washington State University.

The passion of all Washington State producers and growers is eye-opening proof that a different way of working, with respect not just for nature but for all the resources –  energetic, economic, human, etc. – is possible. May it be an inspiration not just for producers worldwide, but also for consumers when choosing a wine – on April 22 but as on every day of the year.

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Meet the 2023 DFWE NYC Grand Tasting exhibitors Fri, 21 Apr 2023 11:21:35 +0000

The Grand Tasting Special Wines are revealed...

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There is just under two months to go until the stunning Manhatta restaurant opens its doors for the second time to welcome you to the highly anticipated Decanter Fine Wine Encounter NYC this June. Not only will there be a sensational line-up of masterclasses held throughout the day, but guests can also enjoy a walk-around the Grand Tasting, which offers a rare opportunity to taste fine wines and meet the people behind the bottles.

The Grand Tasting is at the heart of DFWE and will showcase wines from 50 truly world-class producers from all over the globe. We are so pleased that many of the producers from our 2022 event will be returning this year, and we are equally excited to welcome 32 producers who will be joining us for the first time. This unrivalled wine-tasting experience will represent fine wines from the old world and the new world, with each producer presenting four wines from their collection.

Click here to view the 2023 Exhibitors

As a bonus, they will also each bring an exceptional wine from their cellar, ranging from old vintages, top cuvée, and standard-sized bottles to magnums. These special wines are unique to their collection and you will have the chance to taste, explore, discover or reconnect with vintages and interact with the wineries that made them. It will be a truly unforgettable experience for wine lovers all over.
With the announcement of the Special Wines line-up, you can take a look at the wines the Decanter Team is excited about and which ones stand out for them:

Clive Pursehouse Decanter US Editor

Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, USA 2010
An opportunity to taste a 13-year-old Napa Chardonnay from an iconic producer like Stony Hill is one of the unique treats of attending DFWE and not to be missed.

Château Clerc Milon, Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé, Bordeaux, France 2009
The 2009 vintage is regarded as the stuff of legend from Bordeaux and of course the wines of Clerc Milon are always top examples.

Disznókő, Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, Hungary 2013
A 10-year old Tokaji is the ultimate experience in opulence and Disznóko is a legendary producer.

Vérité, La Joie, Sonoma County, California, USA 2011
The Vérité project is an exciting one combining the best of Bordeaux and Sonoma and so to taste a 12 year old example of this wine is a special treat.

Château Suduiraut, Sauternes 1er Cru Classé, Bordeaux, France 2010
Sauternes is having a moment, and I’ve been tasting younger Sauternes of late, and so to taste one 13 years in, a sort of youthfeel mid-point, and particularly one from Château Suduiraut feels like a great way to cap off the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter

Tina Gellie – Content Manager & Regional Editor (Canada, Australia, NZ, South Africa)

Vasse Felix, Tom Cullity, Margaret River, Western Australia 2017

Following my first trip to Margaret River in late 2022, it was wonderful to finally visit the place where, in 1967, Dr Tom Cullity planted the region’s first commercial vines. Vasse Felix’s top red is named in honour of the winery’s founder and is a blend of old-vine Cabernet and Malbec (from cuttings of the original vines) along with a dash of Petit Verdot. It’s always a powerful, ageworthy and inky-mineral wine, with fine chocolatey tannins and a lovely minty streak.

Yalumba, The Caley Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, South Australia 2018

Taking Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra and Shiraz from the Barossa, this is a quintessential Australian blend – but here intentionally made to be an icon wine, so amped up to the max in concentration (and price). It’s only released with five years of bottle age, so attendees at Decanter’s New York Fine Wine Encounter will be among the first to try it. I’ll be tasting it myself just a few days before the event, and am expecting to be very impressed.

Craggy Range, Sophia, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand 2020

I’m excited to taste this new vintage, a Merlot-dominant blend with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, from winemaker Julian Grounds. It’s one of the winery’s flagships, and this will be the 19th year since it was first made from Hawke’s Bay’s famed Gimblett Gravels, a terroir similar to the Médoc in Bordeaux and the Rhône’s Hermitage. Apparently it’s named after the Greek goddess of knowledge, but other sources say it’s actress Sophia Loren

Ken Forrester, Dirty Little Secret Three, Piekenierskloof, South Africa NV

Any Chenin Blanc made by Mr Chenin himself is going to be great, but this cuvée is unique, and one which I tasted recently when Ken was in London. Instead of showing the character of an individual vintage, It’s a blend of vintages (DLS Three is 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020) to highlight the terroir of the dry-farmed 1965-planted bushvine vineyard in Piekenierskloof. Layered, complex and mineral, It has a textured palate, honeyed orchard fruit and citrus zing.

Browse the Special Wines line-up

Essential information

Decanter Fine Wine Encounter NYC

Date: Saturday 10 June 2023 from 11am to 5pm.

Location: Bay Room at Manhatta, 28 Liberty Street, 60th Floor,
New York, NY 10005 

Price: Grand Tasting tickets from $225 + sales tax (Save with Group tickets) | Masterclass tickets from $245

A Grand Tasting ticket also includes access to the Decanter World Wine Awards winners’ bar, where you can taste Gold, Platinum and Best in Show wines from 2022.

 Buy tickets today

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Bourbon for beginners: seven to try Fri, 21 Apr 2023 08:43:34 +0000 A glass of bourbon with ice on top of a barrel

Learn about the iconic US whiskey...

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A glass of bourbon with ice on top of a barrel

America’s whiskey identity is wrapped up in bourbon, the corn-based spirit that emerged in the 1780s in the southeastern state of Kentucky. Up until that point, rum had been the most popular spirit in the American colonies. But war with the British Empire put a serious dent in the availability of rum. Thus the Revolutionary War and America’s defeat of Britain resulted in both a new nation and a new style of whiskey.

Bourbon was not America’s first whiskey of note. Rye whiskies were being made in the hills of Western Pennsylvania throughout the 1770s by Scots-Irish immigrants. It was these distillers who set off the so-called Whiskey Rebellion.

This rebellion was a reaction of grain farmers and distillers to a whiskey tax enacted by Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton. The developing insurrection was quelled by George Washington and a garrison of troops in 1791 without a shot being fired.

It is bourbon, though, that is synonymous with US whiskey and for good reason. The corn-based liquor is uniquely American and has become one of the world’s most sought-after and highly collected whisk(e)y styles.

This guide explains what bourbon is, how it’s made and recommends several good options to explore.

What makes whiskey a bourbon?

There are several US laws that create guidelines for what can and cannot be called ‘bourbon’.

Bourbon must be grown and distilled in the US – though not specifically in Kentucky. In 1964 the US Congress passed a resolution declaring bourbon to be ‘a distinctive product of the United States’. This resolution was passed to protect the term bourbon from being used beyond US borders.

Bourbon’s ‘mash bill’ (grain composition) must be 51% corn. Bourbons are typically made from 70% corn, as well as other grains, usually wheat, rye and barley. As a grain that was indigenous to the Americas, bourbon’s corn-based identity differentiates it from Scotch and Irish whiskies.

Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. To be designated a ‘straight-bourbon’, it must be aged in this way for two years. Most bourbons are aged in white oak barrels, which are native to the southeast of the US.

Bourbon may not contain any additives for flavour or colour. All of the flavours and colours in bourbon must come from the spirit and the barrel (Scotch for example, can contain ‘caramel colouring’). Water may be added to bourbon throughout the production process to lower its ‘proof’ (alcohol by volume or abv).
Alcohol content. There are three different stipulations required of bourbon’s proof throughout its production.
◦ Bourbon must not be distilled at higher than 160 proof or 80% abv.
◦ Bourbon must not be higher than 125 proof (62.5% abv) when barreled.
◦ Bourbon must be 80 proof or higher (40% abv) when bottled.

Wooden barrels

Bourbon barrel storage room Credit: Kelly VanDellen / Getty Images

How is bourbon aged?

Bourbon’s signature sweet flavours are imparted by the ageing process. Prior to barrelling, distilled bourbon is a clear liquid containing only the flavours of the grains. Unlike wine, bourbon and all whiskies stop ageing once they are bottled.

Ageing requirements are not stipulated for bourbons. However, making a bourbon smooth and drinkable requires enough time in an oak barrel to mellow out the alcohol and impart the sweet, darker characteristics the whiskey is known for.

The climate in Kentucky, where 95% of bourbon is made, is fairly mild in winter, with hot and humid summers. This means that the respiration of the bourbon in the barrels is constant – except when it gets abnormally cold. Bourbon barrels houses are not temperature-controlled to maximise the impact of Kentucky’s climate on the ageing whiskey.

A ‘straight-bourbon’ is aged at least two years. Meanwhile bourbon that is ‘bottled in bond’ must be aged at least four years.

What does bourbon taste like?

Compared to its world whisk(e)y counterparts, bourbon has a unique sweet, toasty flavour profile. Bourbon’s flavours come from a combination of factors. There is a signature sweetness owing to its corn-based composition, which can also help impart a creaminess to the spirit. Then the oak barrels, and their char levels, contribute a variety of aromas and flavours, from sweet to spicy, that are a signature of American bourbon.

Chris Morris, Master Distiller Emeritus at Woodford Reserve, explains: ‘The spring water in central Kentucky is limestone in origin, so it brings a distinct minerality to the wash. The summers are extremely hot and the winters very cold. The result is a whiskey that has a relatively sweet and spicy grain note with rich, sweet aromatic oak influences.’

a hand holding a glass

Credit: Dylann Hendricks / Pexels

Bourbon for beginners: seven to try

Castle & Key Small Batch Wheated Bourbon

From Batch 1, released in 2022, the mash bill consists of 73% white corn, 10% wheat and 17% malted barley. Distillers often use wheat to give their bourbons a soft, fruity character rather than the spice that can come from rye grains. Mission accomplished with this batch: aromas of sweet apricot, honey and shortbread. The palate is smooth, fruity and loaded with vanilla sweetness. Aged five years. Alcohol 50%

Clyde May’s Straight 6 Year Old Bourbon

Clyde May’s whiskies are made in Alabama and aged six years in American oak barrels. This is a fruit-forward bourbon emphasising notes of baked pear and bright apple aromas. Flavours of nutmeg, cinnamon and an apple pie finish. Alc 55%

Hardin’s Creek Jacob’s Well

Hardin’s Creek is a small-batch whiskey programme from global spirits company Beam Suntory. This whiskey is a blend of 16-year-old bourbon and 15-year-old ‘high rye’ bourbon. It’s absolutely smooth and luxurious at this age. Aromas of oak spice, ginger and caramel match with a palate of honeyed pear, nutmeg and brown sugar. Alc 54.5%

Kentucky Owl Takumi Edition

The Takumi Edition bourbon is a selection of 4-, 5-, 6- and 13-year-old Kentucky straight bourbons. It’s a collaboration between Master Blenders John Rhea of Kentucky Owl and Yusuke Yahisa of Japan’s Nagahama Distillery. This bourbon is marked by elegance and nuance. Floral and tropical fruit aromatics. The palate is at once savoury, turning towards ripe apple, honey, and ginger. The Japanese influence is obvious. Alc 50%

Ezra Brooks Old Ezra 7 Year Barrel Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Bottled at barrel-strength, this bourbon is a blend of 78% corn, 12% malted barley and 10% rye. Sweet vanilla and caramel aromas are followed by a palate marked by brown sugar, caramel apple and a kiss of orange peel. Alc 58.5%

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Unforgotten

A blend of 13-year-old bourbon, as well as 8- and 9-year-old rye whiskey, that is further finished in rye casks. This is an intentional recreation of a happy accident from 2010, and it’s one worth repeating. Caramel, honey, and ginger aromas lead into a palate of rich roasted corn, baked pear and baking spices. Absolutely stunning. Alc 52.5%

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

A bourbon lover’s bourbon that is tremendously approachable and very well priced. Made from 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. Aged for six years in a new barrel before being transferred to a second new barrel for another year of ageing. Loaded with caramel and baked apple aromas. Marked by rich sweet flavours of vanilla and spiced apple on the palate. Alc 45%

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Kiona Vineyards: Foundation and future on Washington's Red Mountain Fri, 21 Apr 2023 07:00:51 +0000 Kiona Vineyards
Kiona Vineyards' founders were the first to see the potential of Washington State's Red Mountain AVA back in 1972.

The third-generation brothers leading the way…

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Kiona Vineyards
Kiona Vineyards' founders were the first to see the potential of Washington State's Red Mountain AVA back in 1972.

Kiona Vineyards is the pioneering winery of Washington State’s Red Mountain AVA, today in the hands of the third-generation – brothers JJ and Tyler Williams.

The siblings’ grandfather, John Williams, bought land on the mountain 51 years ago, in 1972, with the first 4ha vineyard planted in 1975.

With Tyler taking over as winemaker from his father Scott in 2019, and older brother JJ having worked on the business side since 2009, Kiona now has more than 113ha, growing grapes for 60 wineries, as well as making its own estate wines.

Scroll down for tasting notes and scores of six Red Mountain wines from Kiona Vineyards

Kiona Vineyards: six Red Mountain wines to try

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Editors’ picks – April 2023 Fri, 21 Apr 2023 07:00:51 +0000 Chianti Classico, The Atlas of the Vineyards and UGAs

See what our team has been trying recently...

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Chianti Classico, The Atlas of the Vineyards and UGAs

Treasure maps

James Button

To understand the concept of terroir is one thing, but to see it in action is another altogether. On a crisp, sunny February morning I met ‘map man’ Alessandro Masnaghetti for a tour of the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole. Masnaghetti’s incredibly extensive research of the DOCG has resulted in a groundbreaking book, Chianti Classico, The Atlas of the Vineyards and UGAs (€70 Enogea, September 2022). Following on from his hugely influential books on the MGAs of Barolo and Barbaresco, this latest book seeks to map Chianti Classico in never-before-seen detail and define the region’s recently announced UGAs – unità geografiche aggiuntive, 11 in total – following close consultation with the regional consorzio. I strongly recommend purchasing the book if you’re a wine and/or soil geek (it also helpfully includes some itineraries for your next visit to the region). However, for a simpler overview of Chianti Classico, Masnaghetti has also worked with the consorzio to produce an interactive drone’s-eye view of the landscape. Visit to find out more.

A trio of South Africans

Tina Gellie

Last month, following UK importer Hallgarten & Novum Wines’ annual tasting, I caught up with three of its South African producers. Decanter has charted Samantha O’Keefe’s journey – including her recovery after the 2019 fires that destroyed her Lismore property in Greyton. While her Estate Reserve Syrah 2018 blew me away, it’s not yet available in the UK, so snap up a bottle of the Lismore, Estate Reserve Viognier 2021 (£49.95 Handford Wines) and revel in its heady jasmine and nectarine opulence.

I could geek out for hours listening to Richard Kershaw MW talk about the fastidiousness with which he attacks every aspect of the winemaking process at his Elgin estate. The 2018 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are stunning, but the Kershaw, Clonal Selection Syrah 2017 (£39.99 Lay & Wheeler, The Wine Library, Wine Republic) is a beauty: supple and sappy with violet and pepper elegance.

Elizma Visser and the unique, terroir-driven wines she creates at Olifantsberg in Breedekloof first came to my attention in 2019, and quality has only improved since. Grenache Blanc is her standout varietal wine, and while you wait for the delicious 2021 to arrive, I recommend you to seek out the last of the Olifantsberg, Grenache Blanc 2020 (£20-£23 Shelved Wine, Strictly Wine, The Oxford Wine Co), packed with waxy quince, samphire and white blossom.

Loire new vintages

Amy Wislocki

Specialist Loire importer Charles Sydney Wines represents some 75 growers, its roster a roll-call of some of the region’s finest names. For this reason its annual London tasting, showcasing an extensive range of new releases, is always well-attended. This year’s tasting, the first since Covid, focused mainly on 2022, a vintage that growers desperately needed to be successful after the frost-ravaged 2021. It wasn’t without its challenges in the end, and these included extreme heat, hailstorms and some frost damage in Muscadet. Overall, though, it was thankfully easier than 2021, with both quantity and quality putting a smile back on growers’ faces.

Highlights included an intensely perfumed, lemony André Figeat, Les Origines Pouilly-Fumé; Jean-Max Roger’s Marnes et Caillottes Sancerre; Cent Visages Touraine from Jean-François Mérieau (a regular favourite of mine – 100% Côt, aka Malbec); and two (2020 vintage) deliciously pure Chinon wines from Charles Joguet. Some of the 2022 wines may take a while to find their way onto retailers’ shelves, but when they do, they’re worth seeking out.

Cadence: Staying steady on Red Mountain

Clive Pursehouse

Ben Smith and his wife Gaye McNutt opened the doors on Cadence winery on 1 April 1998; in 2004 they would buy 4ha of land on Red Mountain, which would become the Cara Mia Vineyard. Cadence celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and the style has been consistent: elegant and harmonious. These are indeed wines of place coming from one of Washington state’s hottest sites, Red Mountain. The Cadence wines stand out, owing to Smith’s deft hand and McNutt’s blending acumen, but they are unique on two counts: Cadence always picks first on Red Mountain, anywhere from one to three weeks ahead; and the couple’s deep embrace of Cabernet Franc. It’s a grape seemingly perfect for Red Mountain, where it gets reliably ripe, giving their wines wonderful herbal and mineral character.

A retrospective tasting from across Cadence’s 25 vintages showed the Cabernet Franc-based Bel Canto to be exceptional in every vintage. The Bel Canto 2019 (US$70) offers savoury hints of fresh sage, mustard seed and crushed stone mingling with red and black fruits. Their remarkable first estate release Bel Canto 2006 was revelatory: 17 years on, it’s fresh, lush and layered with bright red fruit, savoury herbs and notes of green and black tea.

Etna to Barolo: A captivating journey

Ines Salpico

Iconic producers from iconic regions tend to shy away from comparisons and confrontations. Yet some of the most insightful tasting experiences can occur when drawing parallels and finding connections between different grape varieties, terroirs and geographies. This was precisely what happened when I embarked on a fascinating tasting journey from the slopes of Etna to the hills of Barolo, hosted by Mattia Tabacco of OenoTrade. His guests were Federico Graziani, from the eponymous Etna estate, and Andrea Farinetti of renowned Barolo producer Borgogno.

It was a privilege to be able to delve into the history and stories of two of Italy’s most interesting regions, for their rich heritages both viticultural and cultural. From the strong personalities of Nerello Mascalese and Nebbiolo to the moodiness of vintages, by way of the many points of intersection between Etna and Barolo’s history – not least the period, in the 1930s, when a shortage of fruit in Piedmont led Barolo producers to source Etna grapes – the itinerary could not have been more captivating. Among the most delicious stops were Borgono’s Liste Barolo 2016 (£70 Millésima) and Federico Graziani’s Profumo di Vulcano 2019, an Etna Rosso blend of Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Alicante and Francisi (£99 The Wine Place).

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Best biodynamic wines to try on Earth Day Fri, 21 Apr 2023 07:00:38 +0000
The biodynamic block at The Benches Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Columbia Valley, Washington. Credit: Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

A selection of exciting wines to seek out...

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The biodynamic block at The Benches Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Columbia Valley, Washington. Credit: Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Some of the best biodynamic wines are produced by small-scale, independent growers all over the globe, while other examples incorporate prestigious labels.

Below, you’ll find some great biodynamic wines reviewed by the Decanter team to help you raise a toast to the wider movement for environmental protection on Earth Day 2023 – on Saturday, 22 April.

Taking inspiration from scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics is rooted in a holistic vision of vineyard management, respectful of soil and nature and promoting a form of ecological harmony.

It is also associated with lower intervention in the winemaking cellar, to a stronger extent than organic approaches.

As with organics, some wineries choose to pursue certification, while others have long adopted biodynamic principles without making this ‘official’ Certification bodies to look out for on wine bottle labels include Demeter and Biodyvin.

As Decanter’s Amy Wislocki wrote in her article of biodynamics in winemaking, ‘both Biodyvin and Demeter have rules on growing and vinification that can be stricter than organic alone – for example, less use of copper sulphate per hectare, and the use of natural yeasts for fermentation’.

Châteaux Palmer, Pontet-Canet and Climens in Bordeaux are leading proponents of biodynamic wines, but others in the region have been embracing the methods, as Simon Woolf highlighted in this recent article.

Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, the highly regarded chef de cave and executive vice-president at Louis Roederer, owner of Cristal, has credited biodynamics with enhancing a ‘fight for freshness’ in Champagne vintages, in particular.

He has previously spoken of how biodynamic approaches encourage greater attention to detail in the vineyard and critical thinking.

Some producers have said biodynamic approaches enhance the expression of terroir in the glass, although the skill and expertise of the winemaker is inevitably a big factor in terms of overall wine quality.

Higher costs can be a downside of biodynamics for producers.

Best biodynamic wines: a selection of top bottles to seek out

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Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC and Portuguese food: a cosmopolitan connection Thu, 20 Apr 2023 10:00:40 +0000

Pinot Grigio's Portuguese Love Affair...

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At the essence of Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC is a celebration of the travelling, cosmopolitan spirit that links oenological tradition and the pleasure of sharing food & wine. This same passion is at the core of the soul of the Portuguese people and life, much of which revolves around the pleasures of the table and of the many ingredients that, through centuries of travels and discoveries, now form the country’s flavour repertoire. These offer endless and ideal pairing possibilities for the distinct freshness and character of the wines of the Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC.

In love with Portuguese craftsmanship – and flavours

A Portuguese Love Affair (PLA) started as a concept store and delicatessen in London’s trendy Columbia Road. The street is lined by beautiful design shops and truly comes to life on Sundays, when London descends upon it for its iconic flower market. It was as part of this stylish hub that the shop established itself as a key agent of the movement that propelled Portuguese design and cuisine to the top of London’s dining scene, alongside starchefs such as Leo Carreira (who has led exciting pop-ups at PLA) and Nuno Mendes.

The success led founders Olga Cruchino and Dina Martins to open a second site, a cafe , wine bar and restaurant,  a stone’s throw away from the original site on Hackney Road, which has since become the regular hang out spot for post or pre-shopping catch ups.

It was here that we met the two talented entrepreneurs (Dina is also the venue’s gifted chef), to discover how their creations can so ideally be served alongside a glass of Pinot Grigio.

From sea and land

The perfect start is a spread of ‘petiscos’ (tapas-like small dishes); much like the Venetian cicchettis, these beg for a refreshing and mineral glass of wine. Portugal’s Vinho Verde has a perfect Italian counterpart in a classic Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC, balancing the brine intensity of olives, lupins, seafood patés, cured goat cheeses and the Portugal’s flagship canned seafood.

The produce of the sea is indeed one of the core pillars of Portuguese gastronomy.

It’s many iterations – cured, canned, straight from the boat and grilled – cannot be properly enjoyed without a glass of… Pinot Grigio? Why not?

Dina’s superior ‘caldeirada’, a personal, sublime take on the traditional seafood stew, proved even more perfect washed down by a glass of Italy’s most famous white wine, its gentle aromatics and mineral freshness underscoring the dishes’ spices and herbs.

However, Portuguese cuisine is – very much like Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC – a meeting of land and sea. Inland, the country’s recipes gain intensity and weight, with pork meat and legumes claiming centre stage. Dina has a sophisticated interpretation of ‘secretos de porco preto with migas’, a particular cut of acorn-fed pork ribs with a bread-based purée laden with flavour thanks to garlic, various spices, olive oil, herbs and, if in season, wild asparagus. A beautiful and flavourful dish, it is traditionally served alongside a glass of red. It might be a misconception to think that the meat and spices need hefty tannins – the gentler tannic grip of a Ramato, alongside the subtle zestiness of pink citrus, cuts more effectively through the meat fat and brings the spices to live.

Sweet treat

And what of Portugal’s most famous pastry, pastéis de nata, now an absolute favourite among Londoners?? It would be a sin not to try those sold and baked inhouse by Olga, which have won numerous awards and a quasi cult following. Although a thing of perfection in themselves, especially if topped by a generous layer of cinnamon as is the tradition, we dared to try them with a glass of Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Ramato.

A people with an unusual passion for food and wine, only matched by a relentless desire to always explore far and beyond. A knack for intense flavours paired with understated, elegant design. An ethos that might well have found a perfect companion in the cosmopolitan sophistication of Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC.

Discover more about Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC

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Lisbon: Top restaurants and wine bars Thu, 20 Apr 2023 09:00:42 +0000
Narrow streets in Lisbon.

Find out the best places to eat and drink in Lisbon...

The post Lisbon: Top restaurants and wine bars appeared first on Decanter.

Narrow streets in Lisbon.

Lisbon has changed dramatically since I first started visiting the city regularly in 2002. At the time, in the aftermath of the Salazar years and then the Revolution, it was still rather rundown, with many buildings in poor repair. These have since been renovated and the city has become a very popular tourist destination.

It is easy to understand Lisbon’s popularity. Even in December the temperatures stay in the mid-to-late teens, and close proximity to the Atlantic means the searingly hot summer temperatures of the Douro or Alentejo are rare.

Lisbon is a city to walk, although it is very hilly so it helps to be reasonably fit. The city is a delight, with many beautifully tiled buildings, cobbled (and sometimes slippery!) pavements, little squares and frequent vistas across the Tagus estuary.

Despite its popularity, it is still great value. The Portuguese are friendly and welcoming, and importantly the city feels safe.

Easy to get around

The airport is in the northern part of the city – just a short taxi ride from the centre – or you can take the Metro which is clean and efficient, with the stations often decorated with attractive tiles. There are also good bus services and of course the famous trams.

The rechargeable Viva Viagem card, which can be bought at Metro stations, covers all Lisbon transportation including short ferry crossings across the Tagus and trains out to the seaside resort of Cascais and up to Sintra. Taxis are also plentiful and cheap.

Food and drink

Three important Portuguese culinary passions are: good bread, tasty pastries and coffee. There are myriad cafés, both traditional and modern, the latter serving an international clientele who expect wifi and charging points as well as coffee.

Gleba is a bakery that makes an excellent range of sourdough breads and now has several outlets, including in the neighbourhoods of Alcântara, Amoreiras and Campo de Ourique.

Restaurants and bars:

Seafood is a speciality in Lisbon, especially wonderful shellfish and delicious grilled fish dishes. Portuguese cuisine has long been shaped by outside influences, particularly from its former colonies – Angola, Mozambique and Goa, for instance.

However, over the past decade or so, with the huge increase in foreign visitors, the Lisbon restaurant scene has become increasingly cosmopolitan.


Lisbon restaurants wine bars

Corrupio restaurant. Credit: Decanter / Jim Budd

A great place for lunch, Corrupio, in the vibrant Cais do Sodré district near the Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira), is a small and informal restaurant which opened in September 2022.

The central feature is a horseshoe-shaped bar with stools around the counter. Chef Daniel Ferreira creates delicious dishes which are perfect for sharing. The wine selection is fairly short but well chosen. Open from midday to midnight.

Rua da Moeda 1, F/G, 1200-275 Lisbon
+351 21 396 1585


Lisbon restaurants wine bars

Views of the Tagus from upstairs at Ibo restaurant. Credit: Ibo Restaurant.

Also situated in the Cais do Sodré district, Ibo is a long-established and elegant restaurant with magical views over the Tagus. It opened in 2008 in a former salt warehouse. It is best to book a table upstairs, preferably by the window, where there are great views of ferries coming and going in the Tagus estuary.

João Pedrosa, owner and chef, comes from Mozambique, and this heritage is reflected in the fusion of Mozambican and Portuguese food.

Although the menu does not change much, the food is consistently good and the wine list well chosen, while the service is professional and attentive.

Compartimento 2, Cais do Sodré Armazem A, 1200-450 Lisbon
+351 961 332 024

Atira-te ao Rio

Evening views of the Tagus from Atira-te ao Rio restaurant. Credit: Decanter / Jim Budd.

On the south side of the Tagus and with great views across the estuary to the city, the Atira-te ao Rio restaurant is the perfect spot for lunch. There are few things better than sitting outside by the water’s edge on a Sunday with a chilled glass of white or rosé, admiring the view and watching the boats on the river while contemplating what to eat. Summer evenings watching the sun go down are also magical.

The cuisine is Portuguese with some international touches and the wine list is reasonably priced. Booking is advisable, especially at the weekends. To get there, take the short ferry ride from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré district across the Tagus to Cacilhas.

Rua do Ginjal 69, 2800-284 Almada
+351 21 275 13 80

Taberna da Rua das Flores

Taberna da Rua das Flores. Credit: Taberna da Rua das Flores.

Located just off the Praça Luís de Camões square, the perennial queues outside this small, cramped restaurant are testament to its popularity and the magic of Angola-born André Magalhães’ brilliantly inventive fusion cooking. The idea is to share a number of petiscos (tapas). No reservations and cash only, but it’s still well worth any waiting time to get a table.

Rua das Flores, 103, 1200-194 Lisbon
+351 213 479 418

Antiga Camponesa

Grilled snails with mustard sauce at Antiga Camponesa. Credit: Antiga Camponesa.

André Magalhães’ new venture opened in autumn 2022. Unlike his very successful Taberna da Rua das Flores, this is a more spacious and stylish restaurant with 15 tables offering a more traditional format – starters, main course and dessert – sharing or not, as you wish. The cooking is just as inventive and delicious, while the wine offering is more extensive. Reservations and credit cards are accepted.

Rua Mal. Saldanha 25, 1200-259 Lisbon
+351 21 347 1515


The terrace at BAHR restaurant. Credit: BAHR.

The upmarket Bairro Alto Hotel on the Praça Luís de Camões square in central Lisbon was renovated in 2019. Open from breakfast through to dinner, BAHR is its elegant and stylish restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine in an international style. Just adjacent to the restaurant is a rooftop terrace bar with spectacular views over the lower part of Lisbon and the Tagus – great for an aperitif or digestif.

Praça Luís de Camões nº 2, 1200-243 Lisbon
+351 213 408 253

Senhor Uva

Senhor Uva restaurant. Credit: Senhor Uva.

Close to the Jardim da Estrela, Senhor Uva opened in January 2019. It started as a wine bar with food but is now a restaurant serving highly inventive, plant-based dishes created by chef and co-owner Stéphanie Audet.

Senhor Uva specialises in organic, biodynamic and natural wines, with a wide-ranging list mainly focused on Europe, particularly Georgia, plus a few from Australia and the USA.

The knowledgeable staff complement the intriguing wine selection. Its other dining room – Senhor Manuel – is just across the street. Book online to avoid disappointment.

Rua de Santo Amaro 66A, 1200-804 Lisbon
+351 213 960 917

Cervejaria Ramiro

Credit: Cervejaria Ramiro

Lisbon’s most famous shellfish restaurant, founded in April 1956, is an excellent destination spread across three floors. Justifiably popular, booking is strongly recommended.

Avenida Almirante Reis 1 H, 1150-007 Lisbon
+351 21 885 1024

A Praça

Credit: A Praça

Situated in the district of Beato and housed in a converted military building, this brilliant, informal food and wine space opened in September 2022, and is both a restaurant and retail outlet. There are cheese and charcuterie boards to share, plus very good petiscos.

Olavo Silva Rosa is responsible for the strong wine selection which features Portugal, Italy, Spain and France. Corkage fees from the retail wine store are imaginative – €10 for the first bottle, €5 for the second, and no charge for the third! A Praça is rather out of the way, so a taxi is the best option to get there and back.

Tv. Grilo 1, 1950-145 Lisbon
+351 912 421 223

A Casa Dos Passarinhos

Credit: A Casa Dos Passarinhos.

Founded in 1923, Passarinhos is a lovely, traditional Portuguese restaurant on the eastern edge of Campo de Ourique. Very good grilled fish and meat is the restaurant’s mainstay, with daily changing specials.

Offering great value, including reasonably priced wine, Passarinhos is deservedly popular with a largely local clientele. There are often queues outside the restaurant on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Rua Silva Carvalho 195, 1250-249 Lisbon
+351 21 388 2346

Close to Lisbon:

Restaurante da Adraga

Credit: Restaurante da Adraga

This restaurant is the only building at Praia da Adraga, a small, unspoilt cove just 3km north of Cabo da Roca (40km west of Lisbon) – the most westerly point of mainland Europe (this surely must qualify as mainland Europe’s most westerly restaurant).

Come here for great shellfish – the crab is highly recommended – to be followed by brilliant grilled fish partnered by a bottle or so of Vinho Verde. Try to get a table by the window overlooking the beach and out across the Atlantic.

The restaurant is understandably popular, especially in summer, so best to book.

Praia da Adraga, Sintra, 2705-063
+351 219 280 028


Credit: Terroso.

Pedro and Vitalina Marques used to be involved in a popular restaurant and wine bar in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto. They have now set up Terroso in Cascais, a seaside resort on the Tagus estuary about a 45-minute train ride from Lisbon.

Vitalina is a great chef, specialising in high-quality traditional Portuguese cuisine. Pedro, a professional wine taster, is front of house and will always find interesting wines for customers to try. The restaurant is quite small, so do book.

Rua do Poço Novo 17, 2750-467 Cascais
+351 21 486 2137


Three top restaurants that reflect Lisbon’s increasingly cosmopolitan restaurant scene:


Credit: Kabuki

This is the Lisbon outpost of the Kabuki Group, which opened its first restaurant in Madrid in 2000.

Kabuki Lisbon is in the renovated Ritz Galleries overlooking Edward VII Park. It opened in late 2021, was awarded a Michelin Star within a year, and offers high-end, exquisite Japanese food matched by a remarkable wine list put together by wine director Filipe Wang – for instance, there is a vertical of Clos Rougeard running from 2016 back to 2009.

Rua Castilho, nº 77- 77E, 1070-050 Lisbon
+351 212 491 683


Credit: Ruvida

With its small attractive terrace, Ruvida is a friendly Italian restaurant in Alcântara run by Valentina from Bologna and her partner Michel.

Valentina’s homemade pasta is very special, the cooking inventive and the wine list features both Portuguese and Italian wines.

Valentina and Michel recently opened Pausa & Crescente, a wine bar/café also in Alcântara but closer to the Tagus. Booking is advised.

Praça da Armada 17, 1350-027 Lisbon
+351 21 395 0977

The Old House

Credit: The Old House

This is an excellent and very popular large Chinese restaurant in the Parque das Nações, the site of the world fair Expo 1998. I have enjoyed some of the best Chinese food ever in The Old House. Try to get a table upstairs with views over the Tagus. Booking is advised, especially at the weekends.

Rua da Pimenta 9, 1990-254 Lisbon
+351 218 969 075

Wine shops:

Garrafeira Estado d’Alma

This carries an extensive range of wines and spirits, including some old vintages of Portuguese wines and many interesting finds. It is located a short walk from Marquês de Pombal square.

Rua Alexandre Herculano 45A, 1250-010 Lisbon
+351 21 410 5162

Garrafeira Campo de Ourique

A highly recommended shop run by the Santos family, with a large selection of mainly Portuguese wines along with some older vintages. You’ll get knowledgeable advice from Mafalda Santos.

Rua Tomás da Anunciação 29 A, 1350-322 Lisbon
+351 21 397 3494

Garrafeira Nacional

Founded in 1927, there are three branches of this wine shop – two in the Baixa district and one in the Time Out Market. Choose from an extensive range of wines and Ports, with more than 8,000 references.

Manuel Tavares

A traditional grocery and wine shop at the southern end of Rossio Square. Ports are a specialty here, and it boasts vintage Ports going back to at least 1908.

Rua da Betesga 1 A & B, 1100-090 Lisbon
+351 213 424 209

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First Taste: Louis Roederer Cristal 2015 Thu, 20 Apr 2023 08:37:27 +0000 Cristal 2015

An early-drinking vintage...

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Cristal 2015

Louis Roederer’s cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, who could not be present for the London launch, refers to 2015 as a ‘soil vintage’, one that spoke of the deep-rooted vines of what the estate refers to as Domaine Cristal, a range of 45 plots across seven grand cru villages that are farmed organically and biodynamically.

The grapes that make it into Cristal must be from vines older than 20 years in order to express both the chalkiness and salinity of these soils.

Scroll down to see the tasting note and score for Cristal 2015

Anne Krebiehl MW tastes and rates Cristal 2015:

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Sonoma’s Vérité opens new winery Thu, 20 Apr 2023 07:00:36 +0000 The new Vérité winery
The new Vérité winery.

A hospitality centre is part of the new opening...

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The new Vérité winery
The new Vérité winery.

Today, working alongside Seillan, second-generation Chris Jackson and assistant winemaker Hélène Seillan (daughter of Pierre) continue the vision of the estate, and the new winery is part of the evolution.

Like the wines, design elements pull from both France and the surrounding natural area. Nicolas Seillan (son of Pierre and brother of Hélène) is credited as the architectural creative for the project. He counts the Abbaye de Moissac in southern France as inspiration, particularly its concept of symmetry and use of cloisters.

‘This [winery] feels like it’s been here a lot longer than it has, and I think a hundred years from now, it’s going to look and feel very much the same way,’ said Jackson. The aim is to make Vérité a multi-generational wine brand. ‘Creating something that’s an architectural destination that can withstand the test of time, with that type of iconicism and that type of timelessness to it, is important.’

Design elements of the winery aim for both warmth and elegance. The stonework of both the building’s exterior as well as interior flooring is a design nod to the mineral qualities of Chalk Hill soils. At the same, the wooden beams used in the foyer’s ceiling are an ode to the surrounding forests.

The chai, the centrepiece of the winery, indeed feels like the courtyard of a European abbey – albeit enclosed – with balconies encircling the upper level. Barrels were just installed at the end of March, the final piece of the project.

Nearby, three separate cellars will store future vintages of Vérité’s signature cuvées: La Joie, Le Désir and La Muse. ‘We open and taste library wines quite often so we can advise our collectors how different vintages are evolving and showing in the current moment,’ said Hélène Seillan.

‘Library wines are an important part of our hospitality programme and our collector programme, so having a full library onsite and visually showcasing it is really important. We have a long-term vision for Vérité, so when the next generation is here making the Vérité wines, we’ll have a space to showcase and enjoy vintages going back to the beginning,’ Seillan added.

With the new building, Vérité increased its capacity for hosting guests with several tasting parlours on both the upper and lower levels. Large windows on the ground floor look out into the vineyards while infusing the front room tasting spaces with natural light. Further back, a large table on the mezzanine level overlooks the chai.

Downstairs spaces, designed to host collector events, include a dining area that can seat up to 18 guests as well as a nook intended for smaller parties.

The new building contains a large kitchen and Vérité is able to offer a culinary component to its tastings, something the winery couldn’t do before. Options range from small bites served with a flight of the current vintage to a three-course wine-and-food pairing option. The team plans to host more dinner and large-scale events as well.

Along with growing their hospitality programme, the expanded space means Jackson and the Seillans can experiment with new wines. Currently, three stainless steel eggs sit in the back of the barrel room, each containing a single variety from a single cru. Jackson and the Seillans plan to release these wines through their direct-to-consumer channel in Spring 2024 and if successful, may grow the portfolio of these mono-varietal, vineyard bottlings in the future.

Jackson wants the physical space to reflect their winemaking philosophies; timeless is an oft-used expression when speaking about the brand.

‘Everything we do in wine is thought of with decades of consideration as to where it’s going to be [20, 30, 50 years from now]. It’s more forward-thinking and multi-generational thinking, in the Old World sense,’ he said.

However, he wants the ideas of ingenuity and creativity – two markers often associated with New World winemaking – to also be expressed. ‘Vérité is also very American in the sense that, in France, we would never see apex micro crus blended together,’ he continues. ‘They’re all separate. But in Sonoma County, that’s exactly what we’re doing, by blending top sites from throughout Chalk Hill, Knights Valley, Alexander Valley and beyond. So it’s got that creativity of expression and liberty of expression at the heart of it.’

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Crystal Springs of Napa Valley aims for appellation status Thu, 20 Apr 2023 07:00:21 +0000 Vines in proposed Crystal Springs of Napa Valley AVA
Vines in the proposed Crystal Springs of Napa Valley AVA.

Proposal for new American Viticultural Area is being considered by US officials...

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Vines in proposed Crystal Springs of Napa Valley AVA
Vines in the proposed Crystal Springs of Napa Valley AVA.

A petition to make ‘Crystal Springs of Napa Valley’ an official AVA is being considered by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB), which has opened the proposal to public comments until 1 May.

If approved, it would be the first new AVA within Napa Valley for more than 10 years.

Napa Valley itself got AVA status more than 40 years ago, in 1981, and today it encompasses 16 official sub-zones, or ‘nested’ AVAs, according to Napa Valley Vintners. Coombsville is the newest of these, created in 2011.

‘The recognition of our sites with a formal AVA would make us proud and satisfied,’ said Steven Burgess, who submitted the application for Crystal Springs of Napa Valley to the TTB.

‘Our choices to be hillside vintners where expenses are higher, [and] yields are lower would be recognised,’ he told Decanter.

Topography is the key distinguishing feature of the proposed Crystal Springs of Napa Valley AVA, according to details filed with the TTB.

A northern boundary would run primarily along a 1,400-foot elevation contour, dividing the area from the higher ground of the Howell Mountain AVA, while a southern border sits at 400 feet above sea level, separating the area from the lower slopes of the valley floor and the St. Helena AVA.

‘This is a science-based AVA and would be Napa County’s only all-hillside AVA,’ said Burgess, who is planting a small vineyard in the area. He was previously president of his family’s winery, Burgess Cellars, prior to its sale in 2020, and his work on the AVA proposal stretches back several years.

He described the area as ‘frost free’, due to its location. ‘The upper bounds are at 1400 [feet], where the inversion layer usually happens. The lower bounds are at 400 [feet], where frost becomes a problem at the valley floor.’

He added, ‘The generally south-west exposure guarantees plenty of sunshine for maturity. And, being below the inversion layer, we get the famous diurnal temperature range that grapes love.’

These factors produce smaller berries and longer hang-time, aiding complexity, while wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon – the main grape variety — display classic dark fruit flavours, such as black cherry, blackcurrant and cassis.

Cabernet wines here are generally ‘darker’ than on the valley floor, with tannins that are ‘prominent but richer’ than on the mountain top, Burgess said. ‘If not picked too late, the wines can be made quite ageable too.’

The region also benefits from cooling breezes from the Calistoga Gap directly to the west, he said.

Possible confusion with other ‘Crystal Springs’ locations across the US prompted the addition of ‘Napa Valley’ to the formal AVA proposal, said the TTB. There is also a Crystal Springs Vineyard within the planned AVA, the TTB noted.

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2004 and 2005 Rioja: Panel tasting results Thu, 20 Apr 2023 07:00:17 +0000 Rioja_Bottles

The results from a 53-wine panel tasting...

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Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, Sarah Jane Evans MW and Pierre Mansour tasted 53 wines with 8 Outstanding and 37 Highly recommended.

2004 and 2005 Rioja: panel tasting scores

53 wines tasted

Exceptional 0

Outstanding 8

Highly recommended 37

Recommended 7

Commended 1

Fair 0

Poor 0

Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit red wines from the 2004 and 2005 vintages only, with any Rioja classification of gran reserva, reserva, crianza or genérico permitted

We had high expectations of this tasting. It is well known that great Rioja shows its full potential after extended ageing in the bottle, and 2004 and 2005 are both excellent vintages.

The 2004 vintage is the more irregular of the two. It was the last late vintage (from the following year onwards all good vintages have been quite early, likely due to climate change), and some areas performed much better than others. Fruit selection and good vineyard siting were crucial factors, but those who worked well got top wines.

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores from the 2004 and 2005 Rioja panel tasting

2004 and 2005 Rioja panel tasting scores

The judges

Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW is a widely published wine journalist, educator and judge. He holds a degree in agronomical engineering and a Masters in viticulture and oenology, is a national expert for Spain at the OIV organisation and a DWWA joint Regional Chair for Spain.

Sarah Jane Evans MW is a Decanter contributing editor and Co-Chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards. Her latest book The Wines of Central and Southern Spain is set for release in early 2024.

Pierre Mansour is director of wine at The Wine Society, where he has worked for 23 years. Starting out with merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, he joined The Wine Society in 2000, moved into buying after four years and has been buying The Society’s Spanish wines since 2008.

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Sotheby’s global wine chairman to join BlockBar startup Wed, 19 Apr 2023 10:59:57 +0000 BlockBar and Perrier-Jouët partnership 2022
BlockBar and Champagne house Perrier-Jouët offered a limited-edition Jeroboam (3L) of Perrier-Jouët 2007 from the house's Anemone collection in October 2022, to help mark the marketplace's first birthday.

Jamie Ritchie to leave Sotheby's and take up new senior role at BlockBar...

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BlockBar and Perrier-Jouët partnership 2022
BlockBar and Champagne house Perrier-Jouët offered a limited-edition Jeroboam (3L) of Perrier-Jouët 2007 from the house's Anemone collection in October 2022, to help mark the marketplace's first birthday.

BlockBar said today (19 April) that Jamie Ritchie will join the firm as COO in July this year, in a move that will also see Ritchie leave Sotheby’s after 32 years with the major auction house and retailer.

He is currently worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s wines and spirits, and his upcoming arrival at BlockBar marks a significant appointment for the digital marketplace, which was founded in October 2021 by Dov and Sam Falic.

The startup specialises in sourcing high-end wines and spirits directly from producers.

These are also authenticated by blockchain technology and sold on the group’s platform, with bottle owners also offered storage at its facility in Singapore, plus insurance and global shipping, as well as a marketplace on which to resell their wines and spirits, if they choose.

Every bottle sold on the platform is accompanied by a digital version – similar to a non-fungible token (NFT) – which can be sourced back to the winery or distillery and may also be resold, gifted or redeemed for the physical bottle at any time, according to the company.

Dov Falic, co-founder and CEO of BlockBar, said, ‘Jamie Ritchie is recognised worldwide as a leader in the wine and spirits industry, and we are delighted and honoured that he is joining our team.’

Falic added, ‘More people than ever are purchasing liquid assets, both for consuming with friends and for investment, and BlockBar simplifies the purchase process.

‘Based on the tremendous response to the unique bottles offered on our platform during our first year of operations, we are very confident about BlockBar’s rapid growth and we project significant revenue multiples over the next few years.’

Payments can be made via credit card or ETH, it said, referencing the Ethereum digital currency.

Ritchie said that he was ‘looking forward to a new challenge and adventure’ following 32 years of ‘being part of the team behind the growth of Sotheby’s Wine & Spirits business’.

He has helped to significantly expand Sotheby’s’ Wine and Spirits division, which saw record auction sales of $150m (£121m) in 2022.

The auction house has signed several new partnerships in recent years, such as with the annual Hospices de Beaune sale in Burgundy and Napa Valley Vintners in California, while also expanding live auctions to France and offerings wines sourced direct from prestigious producers’ cellars.

Ritchie has also been a strong proponent of digital transformation, a process that was necessarily accelerated during Covid-related social restrictions.

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Kerin O’Keefe: Decant older wines? Never Wed, 19 Apr 2023 07:00:54 +0000 Pouring wine from a decanter into a glass

A heartfelt manifesto as to why you should never decant an older wine...

The post Kerin O’Keefe: Decant older wines? Never appeared first on Decanter.

Pouring wine from a decanter into a glass

I’ve had the ‘decant or not decant’ conversation countless times with wine lovers and industry insiders, and have discovered that most either love or hate these seemingly benign glass containers.

I fall firmly into the hate ’em camp, especially when it comes to decanting old wines. Aged wines are fragile, and after years of being under cork the sudden explosion of oxygen creates the worst possible shock. On impact, the wine loses aromas and flavours that will never be recovered. Decanting is like opening a novel on page 50: you lose the intro and never get the plot.

And if you want to totally destroy an aged wine, double decant it by pouring the wine first into a decanter then back into its original bottle, presumably cleared of sediment. This practice is quite common at restaurants.

I was on the receiving end of this travesty several years ago when I attended a tasting of aged Barolos at a highly esteemed New York City establishment with an award-winning wine list. The line-up included celebrated producers and stellar vintages, spanning 1964 to 1989. I had fond memories of tasting many of the same wines and vintages on other occasions and was excited to revisit them.

But that night all six Barolos were lacklustre, deprived of aromas, flavours and vibrancy. Could this have been due to poor storage by previous owners of the bottles? Yes, it’s possible. But all six? Not likely. Having a lot of experience with older Barolo, I expected a constant evolution of aromas in the glass, ranging from forest floor, tar, dried rose, tobacco and camphor that I usually find in aged Nebbiolo from the best names in outstanding vintages. I also anticipated an array of flavours such as dried cherry, cake spice, dried mint and beyond.

Yet there were none of these sensations or evolution. Not even at the end of the night after the wines would have had ample time to breathe, if that had been the issue. I asked the sommelier when the wines had been opened, and he declared they had been double decanted a few hours beforehand, which explained their vapid state.

So why does anyone decant? Sommeliers and wine lovers tell me they decant aged wines because they’re turned off by the sediment that usually sits at the bottom of bottles. Another reason is because many believe decanting is the best way to aerate wines in a short time frame.

But the risk of ruining a great old vintage outweighs the meagre benefit of avoiding sediment. If sediment is your issue, don’t drink the last ounce or two left in the bottle that would have stayed in the decanter anyway.

It’s worth noting that sediment in aged wine is perfectly normal. As the late Franco Biondi Santi used to say, it was his favourite part of tasting older vintages as it contains all the substances, including colour and flavours, that wines cede over time.

Fine wines made with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are particularly penalised by decanting. When cultivated in the best sites, both grapes are rich in norisoprenoids. This class of aromatic compounds contributes to a wine’s varietal character, allowing the development of intense aromas in the best Barolos, Barbarescos and Brunellos that evolve throughout the years. These wines need gentle aeration or they lose their enticing aromas.

That’s why, when I pull a wine from our cellar, I uncork it three or four hours ahead of time for gradual, consistent aeration. If I’m at a restaurant, I order the older red right away, and have them uncork it at the table while I sip a young white or bubbles with my starters and first courses.

Would I ever decant a young, robust wine that could hold up to decanting? Nope. For all the same reasons: even with young, sturdy wines, I want the whole story and to watch the wines evolve. It takes time, but I’m never in a rush when it comes to enjoying fine wine.

I’m not the only Don’t Decant Diehard: nearly all Italian winemakers shun decanting, especially for their older bottles. As they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do. And in this case, even when not in Rome.

Based in Italy, Kerin O’Keefe is a wine critic, author and speaker, as well as founder of

What I’ve been drinking

I recently opened the Comm. GB Burlotto, Barolo Acclivi 2012 (£177 Berry Bros & Rudd) and it was absolutely stunning. Made from a selection of the best grapes from the estate’s top vineyards in Verduno, it’s the quintessential expression of the village. It’s fragrant, delicious and loaded with finesse, delivering layers of red berry, menthol and spice. Impeccably balanced and fresh, it’s showing beautifully now but will age for another decade or more.

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Glitzy ancient winery hosted ‘spectacles’ for Roman imperial elite Wed, 19 Apr 2023 07:00:27 +0000 Luxury ancient winery found near Rome
(Fig. 3) View from the north-west, with the 'cella vinaria' in the foreground and treading floor and presses behind.

Wine fountains and other opulent features at exclusive villa suggest 'theatrical' celebration of new vintages, says study...

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Luxury ancient winery found near Rome
(Fig. 3) View from the north-west, with the 'cella vinaria' in the foreground and treading floor and presses behind.

Excavation of the Villa of the Quintilii near Rome unearthed ruins of the ornate ancient winery, which may once have turned the annual grape harvest into a ‘vinicultural spectacle’ for a select imperial entourage, says a study that draws on evidence about Roman wine culture and the villa’s features.

Grape treading floors partially clad in red breccia marble suggest opulence was prioritised over pragmatism, said researchers, writing in the Antiquity journal.

A nymphaeum-like design also appears to have enabled fountains to display newly made wine in full flow at the villa.

It’s already known that agricultural production and wine harvests specifically were romanticised, but this marks a particularly rare find – as well as a possible glimpse of life inside ancient Rome’s imperial court.

‘It’s really astonishing and almost completely unique,’ said Dr Emlyn Dodd, co-author of the study and assistant director of archaeology at the British School at Rome.

It’s not clear when the winery opened, although at least one section dates to around the mid-third century AD, based on [emperor] Gordian-era construction stamps, said the study’s authors.

ancient winery with dining rooms outside Rome

(Fig. 8) View of the winery from the excavated western dining room with its wide doorway and perspective. Photo by E. Dodd, from Dodd, Galli, Frontoni 2023.

Only ‘Villa Magna’, another lavish winery lying around 50km to the south-east, is comparable as a venue, the study said.

‘The fountains are really remarkable,’ Dodd told Decanter. ‘This is the only place across the whole ancient Roman world certainly, and probably ancient world as a whole, that we’ve got this evidence of a fountain system for wine production.’

It’s unclear whether guests would have interacted with the fountains, such as by filling their cups, or whether the flow of wine merely provided a backdrop to festivities.

‘It’s all really speculative and conjectural, but you get an interesting twist to the usual tale of production,’ said Dodd, an expert in ancient wine who joined excavation project to help examine and interpret the winery.

The villa was once owned by emperor Commodus, who seized the property after killing previous owners the Quintilii brothers, said the study. Yet evidence suggests the winery post-dates Commodus’ reign, from around 177 to 192 AD, because part of it erased a construction from his era.

ancient roman winery wall

Fig. 9: The opus sectile pavement found in the excavated western dining room—misalignment clearly attests two phases of construction. Photo by S. Castellani, from Dodd, Galli, Frontoni 2023.

Roman wines

Guests were almost certainly drinking while enjoying the villa’s harvest showpiece, but there is so far little evidence about the style of wine being made or consumed. Dodd said he hoped to secure more funding to excavate the remaining half of the cellar.

Researchers and archaeologists do already have evidence about Roman wines and winemaking in general in this era. ‘We obviously know a lot about ancient Roman wine in terms of flavours and additives, adding things like herbs and spices, honey, salt water and all that kind of stuff,’ said Dodd. ‘So there would have been a range of possible wines that they were drinking.’

There’s also evidence that wine quality was something of a status symbol. ‘We know the Romans had an almost infinite spectrum of wine qualities,’ Dodd said.

‘The rich and elite would have gone out and bought expensive wines to show that off,’ he said. He cited literature from the period, through which ‘we hear about Julius Caesar and people like this being able to afford wines that were aged for 100 years, because they were so rare’.

Such stories are not considered to be true, but they ‘play on this idea of them having access to the highest qualities, and emphasising the social hierarchy in that way’.

At the same time, Dodd said that there is possibly ‘a little bit of a sense of’ emperors and elites demonstrating interest in wine and winemaking to help them appear relatable to ordinary people.

Read the full study in Antiquity.

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Expert's choice: Italian rosé – 18 fine wines to try Wed, 19 Apr 2023 07:00:18 +0000 Italian rosé
Feudi di San Gregorio vineyards in Italy's southern wine region of Campania.

Italian pinks for springtime...

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Italian rosé
Feudi di San Gregorio vineyards in Italy's southern wine region of Campania.

While the export market is flooded with pale pink Pinot Grigio and Chiaretto, and more recently with pink Prosecco, the trends in planting paint a confusing picture for Italian rosé.

Italy appears to be one of the few countries where the production of rosé is declining, even if there are more and more producers adding rosé to their portfolios.

Scroll down for tasting notes and scores of 18 of the finest Italian rosé wines

Italian rosé: 18 of the finest wines to try

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Negev desert study may have earliest evidence of white grapes Tue, 18 Apr 2023 09:45:12 +0000 Aerial view of the Nana Estate Winery vineyards near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert.
Aerial view of the Nana Estate Winery vineyards near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert.

Centuries-old grape pips offer more clues about cultivation and wine history...

The post Negev desert study may have earliest evidence of white grapes appeared first on Decanter.

Aerial view of the Nana Estate Winery vineyards near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert.
Aerial view of the Nana Estate Winery vineyards near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert.

Today’s high-tech vintners of Israel’s Negev desert grow modern grape varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but a new study shows the region’s desolate sand was once home to very different cultivars – relics notable for past and future alike.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study compared the genetic information of a handful of grape pips from an excavated Byzantine monastery with hundreds of modern cultivars, and wild and table grapes from Israel and beyond.

‘The Negev Highlands has an interesting story that has not been told,’ said Guy Bar-Oz, a University of Haifa archaeologist, who has been excavating Byzantine settlements in the Negev Desert for the past six years.

‘We were aware of the massive communal wine presses but we didn’t know actually what [the settlers] were growing,’ Bar-Oz added.

According to the new genetic data, one of the Negev pips dated to the eighth century and likely originated from a grape that was white.

If archaeological remains can confirm the discovery, it could be the earliest white grape documented anywhere in the world – although the study notes that previous work has suggested the white colour of some varieties have multiple origins.

It’s possible this one grape could also answer a nagging historical mystery surrounding the identity of the famous Byzantine-era vinum Gazetum, or Gaza wine.

‘There is historical reference that speaks about this sweet white wine, the Gaza wine,’ Bar-Oz said.

The delicacy was produced in the Negev and shipped through the port of Gaza, from where it reached across the Mediterranean and onto the tables of monarchs in Germany, France and Britain. A lack of evidence of white varieties from the period has been puzzling, however.

Researchers in the latest study also shed more light on Byzantine trade. As grapevines made some of the largest profits of any crop in Byzantine times, the quality varieties from the Negev were disseminated along trade routes.

Bar-Oz and his team, for example, discovered that another ancient grape was an ancestor of a modern-day red variety called Asswad Karech in nearby Lebanon.

On the island of Crete, more than 1,000 kilometres away, an offspring of Asswad Karech was used to produce yet another historical wine: Malvasia – famous during medieval times and still made on the island today.

‘It’s a 1,500-year-old east Mediterranean phenomenon that tells a very important human history,’ Bar-Oz said. ‘It shows the connectivity between the Negev and European society.’

Discoveries in the Negev aren’t only valuable to understanding our past; researchers said their work may also be relevant for climate challenges today.

While desert communities knew how to engineer remarkable irrigation systems, it was just as vital for them to select the right grapevine cultivars, in what is an unusually extreme climate for Vitis vinifera.

‘The Negev is an area that receives around 100 millimetres of rain in a good year, with very strong fluctuations between seasons,’ Bar-Oz said. ‘Still, viticulture very much flourished in this area over centuries.’

Analysing these desert grapes’ molecular and genetic signatures could reveal why they were so resilient in such an arid environment.

Modern-day close relatives of ‘archaeological grapes’ could provide a platform for future study on grapevine resilience to such conditions, the study said.

‘We need to put much more effort into learning about the diversity of the ancient [vineyards], looking specifically for those that might be more resistant in arid environments,’ Bar-Oz said.

See the full study in PNAS.

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Niepoort: producer profile and 10 top wines to try Tue, 18 Apr 2023 07:00:56 +0000 Niepoort
Dirk van der Niepoort and his son Daniel Niepoort

Learn more about this top Portuguese winery

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Dirk van der Niepoort and his son Daniel Niepoort

‘Do little stupid things’ may not sound like a recipe for success. Nor, for that matter, the best fatherly advice for Daniel Niepoort on becoming Niepoort’s sixth-generation head of winemaking in 2021. However, the open-minded attitude and logic behind it – ‘because you learn the most’ – are what enabled Dirk van der Niepoort to transform a relatively obscure Port house, founded by his great-great-grandfather in 1842, into one of the best known and most influential Portuguese wine and Port producers in the world.

Top Niepoort wines to try

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The sommelier suggests... Pignolo by Mattia Scarpazza Tue, 18 Apr 2023 07:00:50 +0000 Mattia Scarpazza

Mattia Scarpazza on why it’s worth seeking out Pignolo...

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Mattia Scarpazza

Mattia Scarpazza has worked for the best part of a decade at Petersham Nurseries Café, near Richmond-upon-Thames, currently as head sommelier. Since completing his WSET Diploma in 2019, he has pursued his interest in wine communication, with articles published in The Buyer and Sommelier Collective, also producing a podcast @lookingintowine.

Like many other Italian grapes, Pignolo is part of a group of obscure but remarkable varieties. Producers of Pignolo are releasing an ever-increasing number of accomplished wines, but the market is yet to catch up with it. I’m ready for it when it does.

The heartlands of Pignolo are Colli Orientale and Gorizia in Friuli. Both of these regions in northeast Italy are typically associated with white wines, but production of reds is growing steadily.

Pignolo produces wines that are deep red in colour with aromas of fresh flowers, bramble and olives; the tannins are robust and packed, balanced by uplifted acidity. Long maturation is proving the right way to produce Pignolo – think of the attributes of a gran reserva Rioja, although such an appellation does not exist in the region, yet. The wines are typically aged in large botti, though experimentation with amphorae is ongoing.

In my experience, the most soulful Pignolos are released into the market at around the 10 year mark – for example, Josko Gravner’s Rosso Breg 2006 (£305/magnum in bond, Starling Wines) was released in 2020 and Le Vigne di Zamò, Rosazzo Pignolo 2009 released in 2019.

What I’ve loved most from my explorations of this variety is how many producers tend to buck the trends, growing a variety that until recently wasn’t on anyone’s radar and then maturing it for a long time – showing a true belief in its potential. Pignolo is low-yielding compared to the more widely planted Refosco grape, and plantings had fallen sharply – but the trend is slowly reversing, thanks to a better understanding of the grape.

It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for Pignolo, as producers are coming together to promote the variety. At the moment there are only about 50 estates that produce varietal Pignolo, but I’m certain this number will increase as its popularity grows. And not just in the region itself – I know of two producers who are looking at planting it in California.

Pignolo has the right to sit at the table of varieties known for their ageing ability, among the likes of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. I believe that the best examples of Pignolo can easily age for 20 years or more, developing notes of cedarwood, cracked pepper and sweet spices as they evolve.

When it comes to food matching, much like Sangiovese, Pignolo shows at its best when served with a slow-cooked lamb shank with herbs and spices, polenta and seasonal greens – or try it with feta and tapenade on grilled bread.

A last word of advice: Pignolo wines are usually only available from specialist independent wine merchants, and in small quantities – these are not wines you will come across on the supermarket shelves. But it is worth the effort to seek them out.

Discover Pignolo: Scarpazza’s three to try

Ermacora, Pignolo (2016, £35 Vindinista) is a superb way to explore the variety, with its distinctive freshness, rich tannins and typical black olive aromas.

I would also highly recommend Radikon, Pignoli (2004, £72/50cl Buon Vino). Aged for a minimum of five years in botti and then cellared for six years, this is one for those who are looking to experience a mature, prime example of Pignolo. Enjoy the aromas – a medley of ripe red fruits and sweet spices – and the alluring palate.

For a more modern take on the grape, try the Visintini, Amphora series bottling (2014, £18.95 Lea & Sandeman). Fermented and matured in clay vessels, it’s abundant in wildflower and plum aromas.

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