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The world’s best wine magazine

February 2018



101 exceptional reds and whites 30 UNDER £30

Top New World buys


When the winemaking dream becomes a reality

TASTED & RATED 2015 Northern Rhône reds New Zealand Chardonnay

ALSO • Restaurants of the Year • Carignan • Baja California





70 Introduction 71 Steven Spurrier’s fine wine world Decanter’s consultant editor and 2017 Man of the Year hand-picks fine wines for drinking and laying down, all priced from £25

72 Weekday wines Christelle Guibert recommends 25 great-value wines on the UK shelves for under £25

48 75 Northern Rhône 2015 18 Burgundy 2016 Severe frost marked this vintage, but William Kelley finds the best wines are still worth buying, picking out 101 top-scoring and value reds and whites across the region

32 Producer profile: Gravner Tom Cannavan travels to Italy to visit the enigmatic talisman of the biodynamics movement

38 Taking the plunge Anne Krebiehl MW meets six risk-takers and careerchangers around the world who turned their winemaking dreams into a reality

87 wines tasted Cornas and Côte-Rôtie are the stars in a tasting ranked ‘one of the best ever’ by our judges

most intriguing, exciting and mould-breaking wines available in the UK today

87 New Zealand Chardonnay

62 Santa Rita replanting

92 wines tasted Two regions performed well, but overall our judges criticised the lack of varietal character

Pulling up 380 hectares of vines? Amanda Barnes reveals the wisdom behind this radical move by Chile’s producer of Casa Real

94 Expert’s choice: Georgia While there are many styles of interest, Simon Woolf finds the qvevri wines the most exciting

66 Interview: Chris Howell The philosophic man behind Napa Valley’s iconic Cain Five red blend talks terroir and natural winemaking with Stephen Brook


48 The rise of Carignan This once-scorned grape is being reborn as a fine wine in both France and Spain, discovers Miquel Hudin

54 Top 30 New World buys under £30 Peter Richards MW has scoured the globe to find the

JAN SALE! Subscribe to Decanter from just £35.99* and save up to 41% For full details, visit Quote code BWP7 Phone number 0330 333 1113 (Lines open from Mon- Sat 8:00am-6:00pm (UK Time) *Pay just £35.99 annually by Direct Debit, with the price guaranteed for the first 12 months and we will notify you in advance of any price changes. Offer closes 5 Feb 2018. Terms and conditions apply. For full details please visit

Regulars 4

The joy of terroir Keltern Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay


A month in wine Vineyard robots; Hospices de Beaune auction

12 Letters 61 Next month 104 Notes & queries Leaking Madeira, tirage vs dosage, and ‘struck match’

Columnists 6 John Stimpfig 14 Andrew Jefford

Good living 96 Restaurants of the Year Fiona Beckett profiles our UK winner, Ynyshir in Wales, and the international

winner, Babel in Budapest, Hungary

100 Travel: Baja California Sorrel MoseleyWilliams heads to Mexico to seek out the best wineries, regional cuisine and attractions

Collectors 106 Market watch 108 Fine wine price watch 114 Wine legends M Chapoutier, Le Pavillon, Ermitage 1991

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 3

Cover photograph: Mike Prior. With thanks to Berry Bros. & Rudd (, John E Fells & Sons Ltd (www. and Hedonism Wines (www. for the loan of the bottles


The joy of terroir

Written by Laura Seal

The Keltern vineyard, planted mainly with Chardonnay plus a small parcel of Pinot Gris, stretches across 50 hectares of Hawke’s Bay on New Zealand’s North Island. These vines are 18 years old and grow in silt loam and alluvial gravel soils. In fact, this photo is taken from the bank of the Ngaruroro river, responsible for forming these soils over thousands of years. Vidal Estate, along with its sister wineries Esk Valley and Villa Maria, owns the Keltern vineyard, which is the source of its Legacy Chardonnay. The slopes in centre of the picture are the foothills of the Kaweka mountains, which can be seen in blueish haze on the horizon. At night, cool air descends from the mountains and is funnelled across the vineyard through the foothills, creating a microclimate that helps elevate the wines’ natural acidity and purity of citrus flavours.

4 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Keltern Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 5


John Stimpfig ‘Some producers had gone overboard on reductive techniques’

AUSTRIAN TASTING LONDON 2018 Monday 5th February | 10.30 am – 5.00 pm More than 1000 wines to taste and discover from Austria’s top estates. THE INSTITUTE OF DIRECTORS 116 Pall Mall | SW1Y 5ED London Please register with

THIS MONTH’S PANEL tasting of New Zealand Chardonnay (see p87) served up some tellingly critical comments. Somewhat unusually though, there were no negative comments whatsoever about high alcohol levels or too much oak. So what did our experts take exception to? Well, quite a lot. Too many wines lacked varietal character and tasted more like Riesling or aged Sauvignon. Rebecca Gibb MW also felt that some producers had gone overboard on reductive winemaking techniques. In addition, our experts agreed that a number of the Chardonnays they were tasting either ‘lacked ripeness’ or were ‘overly citrus’. If this sounds a bit like déjà vu, let me refer you back to our December 2017 issue panel tasting, in which coolclimate Australian Chardonnay was under the spotlight: almost exactly the same concerns were raised. Although I didn’t sample any of the wines from the Kiwi tasting, I did taste quite a few of the Aussie Chardonnays and came to the same conclusions as our panel. I found many to be unappetisingly lean and mean. To my palate, they were under-fruited and unbalanced. It’s pretty obvious how and why we got here. For a decade or more, the fashion pendulum has been swinging relentlessly away from the blowsy, over-alcoholic and over-oaked Chardonnays of yesteryear to more mineral, fresher and purer interpretations. And of course, many consumers, commentators and critics (Decanter included) have been cheering on this welcome paradigm shift. As a result, Chardonnay’s viticultural landscape is increasingly to be found in cooler sites. Grapes are picked earlier to lock in natural acidity. Winemakers often eschew malolactic fermentation. New oak has frequently given way to older and larger vessels. On top of all this, we’re also seeing Chardonnays made in a more reductive style – hence the attendant rise of the once fashionable and now almost endemic struck-match phenomenon. This first gained traction in Burgundy but has now spread far and wide (see Notes & Queries, p104). I’d argue that all of these developments have been more or less welcome. But now it feels as if the winemaking pendulum is at risk of swinging too far – and not just in Australia and New Zealand. Winemakers, please take note. D

John Stimpfig is content director of Decanter




A month in wine

All the important issues affecting you across the globe, compiled by Laura Seal

Robot trials: a new dawn for viticulture? ROBOTS MAY SOON be playing a more significant role in some of the world’s most prestigious vineyards, following successful trials in Bordeaux and Portugal. The latest report comes from Château Clerc Milon, owned by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, where trials with a prototype vineyard robot named ‘Ted’ began in early 2017. Aimed at helping with soil cultivation and weeding, the trials were part of a partnership with French group Naïo Technologies. ‘We see robotics as an effective solution for the future,’ said Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s managing director Philippe Dhalluin. ‘As well as helping to make our vineyard work less arduous and respecting the soil, it will reduce our dependency on fossil energies and the harm caused by traditional agricultural machinery.’ Baron Philippe de Rothschild said it has been pursuing organic and biodynamic methods more generally in its vineyards, as well as reducing chemical treatments by 30% since 2008. Dhalluin, who is also managing director at Mouton Rothschild, told Decanter that he doesn’t anticipate robots replacing humans in the vineyard, particularly when it comes to picking and selecting grapes. ‘In the vineyards, we are first and foremost concerned with the wellbeing of our workers. Ted will be able to relieve them of some of the repetitive tasks, but a robot will never replace

Robot Ted in use at Château Clerc Milon, Pauillac, Bordeaux

Above: VineScout at Agronomy Day in Symington’s Quinta do Ataíde, Douro, Portugal

the human hand, [which is] essential for a perfect, high-quality harvest.’ Port producer Symington Family Estates has also recently trialled a vineyard robot named VineScout, which can monitor vine health and alert winemakers to any problems, such as water stress. It uses GPS tracking to function autonomously among the vines. The three-year VineScout project started in 2016 and is part-funded by the European Union, together with private institutions. The trials in Portugal and Bordeaux are the latest examples of automation in vineyard management. Drones are already used in some areas to monitor vine health, as at Château Pape Clément in Bordeaux.

Buoyant 2017 vintage lifts Hospices de Beaune sale The Hospices de Beaune 2017 auction raised a record €13.5 million (£12m, $16m), according to Christie’s which presented the sale. This beat the previous record total set in 2015. The auction’s top lot was ‘La pièce des Présidents’ sold for €420,000 – the second-highest figure on record. All proceeds from the sale of the Presidents lot go to charity, and this year the donated wine consisted of two barrels of Corton Grand Cru Clos du Roi, jointly purchased by Maison Albert Bichot and an unnamed China-based investor. Other highlights from the top 10 sales included three lots of Bâtard-

Above: the Hospices de Beaune annual charity auction is held every November Montrachet Grand Cru, all sold at above €100,000 each, and six lots of Clos de la Roche Grand Cru that smashed their sale price estimates.

The results mark a return to form for the Hospices de Beaune auction which was helped by having more wine to sell from a 2017 vintage that proved relatively plentiful, compared to more recent years. The auction featured 787 barrels, a marked increase from 596 barrels in the previous year and 575 in 2015. Jasper Morris MW, a Christie’s consultant, said: ‘We owe this great result largely to the work of [winemaker] Ludivine Griveau and her team for producing such high-quality wines in both colours. It has been a pleasure to taste such an excellent class of wine across 787 barrels.’ ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 9

A month in wine Around the wine world New Côte d’Or appellation enhances regional options A brand new regional Burgundy classification, Bourgogne Côte d’Or, has been inaugurated in Beaune. It forms the 14th Bourgogne Régionale AP, so it is not a new appellation per se, but should be seen as the top of the regional pyramid, just below village level, according to Cécile Mathiaud of the BIVB Burgundy wine council. One key difference is that only Pinot Noir grapes can be used for the reds, from vines grown across all villages of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, from south of Dijon down to Maranges. Also, the density of vine plantings for Burgundy Côte d’Or is set at a minimum of 9,000 plants per hectare, compared to 5,000 for the other Burgundy regional appellations. It’s estimated that 1,000ha of vineyard will be put towards the first Bourgogne

Côte de Beaune vineyards Côte d’Or wines: two-thirds red and one third white. Producers will be able to include grapes grown on young vines that would not necessarily be otherwise used in village-level wines. Louis-Fabrice Latour, of Domaine Louis Latour, said that wines at this new level would probably cost ‘about 20% more’ than other regional Burgundy AP wines, but they will be cheaper than wines from village classifications.

Mouton reveals 2015 ‘flux’ label art Château Mouton Rothschild has released its grand vin label artwork by Gerhard Richter for the 2015 vintage. Richter’s label uses a process that the German artist calls ‘flux’, described as a technique that combines painting with photography and is ‘both random and carefully prepared’ using plates of plexiglass. Born in Germany in 1932, Richter is known for his abstract ‘photorealistic paintings’. His 1986 painting Abstraktes Bild set a record auction price for a work by a living artist in 2015 when it sold at Sotheby’s for £30.4 million. The latest label artwork was selected by Camille and Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild. Other artist designers of Mouton labels include Dali, Miró, Chagall, Picasso and Warhol.

Archaeology extends Georgia wine history

Bordeaux Branaire-Ducru owner Maroteaux dies

New evidence strenghtens theories that Georgia was the cradle of winemaking. A team led by professor Patrick McGovern collected and analysed organic compounds found on ancient pottery shreds in Georgia. Their results ‘provide the earliest biomolecular archaeological evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East, circa 6,000–5,800 BC’. ‘We’re really just trying to work out where the first domestication [of vines] occurred, and Georgia is right in the centre of it all,’ said McGovern.

Patrick Maroteaux, owner of Château Branaire-Ducru in St-Julien, has died aged 67 after a long battle with cancer. Born in Picardy, Maroteaux and his wife Evelyne purchased the fourth-growth estate in 1988, following his successful careers as both banker and businessman. He was president of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) from 2001-2008, then president of St-Julien appellation. ‘Patrick was admired for his dynamism, open-mindedness and respect for our values,’ said current UGC president Olivier Bernard in a tribute.

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In brief ■ Pessac-Léognan cru classé Château de Fieuzal will not release any wine from the Bordeaux 2017 harvest, because severe frost damaged too much of its crop. Icy weather during spring affected almost all of its 75ha vineyard. ■ After 35 years at the helm, Baron Eric de Rothschild, 77, is to step down as chairman of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). His daughter, Saskia de Rothschild, will take over the role from April 2018. In addition, the group’s president and CEO, Christophe Salin, is stepping down in March 2018 and will hand over to Jean-Guillaume Prats. ■ Warren Winiarski, winemaker and founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, has been inducted into California’s Hall of Fame, where he joins the likes of movie director Steven Spielberg and NFL quarterback Jim Plunkett. ■ A UK duty freeze on wine, beers, spirits and most ciders announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in November will save the industry £247 million, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association says. ‘We are pleased the Chancellor found his festive spirit,’ added WSTA chief executive Miles Beale. ■ French luxury goods group LVMH has bought control of cult Napa winery Colgin Cellars in California, acquiring 60% of the business. The winery’s founder Ann Colgin and her husband Joe Wender will retain the remaining 40%. It marks a significant move into Napa Valley for LVMH, which already boasts names such as Dom Pérignon, Krug, Clos des Lambrays and Château d’Yquem in its portfolio. Stay up to date with the latest wine news on, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @Decanter


Enraged or inspired by what you’ve read? Email, or write to: The Editor, Decanter, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU, UK

Knowledge not the issue TIM JACKSON MW’S letter (January 2018 issue) simplifies the wine consumer ‘problem’ by blaming it on lack of consumer knowledge. British supermarkets no longer have to be ambitious; they control the lion’s share of wine sales and that is not going to change. Their lack of wine diversity was always going to happen when they got to a certain level in market share. Having attained this, they started to use more big brands as they could do better business with them, and the volumes they were now selling could only be supplied by those large wineries on a regular basis. The move is now towards own-label wines. Consumers will trust that these are the ‘Finest’ or ‘Best’. All this fits in with bulk shipping, and bottling in the UK saves on freight and keeps margins in the supermarkets’ favour. The average punter is more educated wine-wise than even five years ago as there are many newer grape varieties on offer, even if they are from large big brands. As for getting people to go on a one-day wine course – flying pigs is a more likely scenario! The average price per bottle is what it is because most people are happy with their purchase and don’t have the surplus income to spend more. John Wigglesworth, Norwich

Letter of the month Getting what you pay for AS A RETIRED wine-shop owner, I could not agree more with Elin McCoy’s column on wine as luxury brand (October 2017 issue). The thing I hated most was when a winery or distributor wanted a super-luxury price for an average-to-good wine, and when I complained replied: ‘there are only x cases’. When I said I didn’t care whether there were x or 100x cases, and that the quality should determine the price, some wineries got very upset. Here in Oregon some upstart wineries with no track record want premium prices for their wines when other established wineries are still offering their entry-level wines at half the price. Why should anyone subsidise a fabulous tasting room costing millions, if the quality is not in the wine? Michael Beard, Portland, Oregon

the magazine – and, later, Reserva Malbec from its 200-year-old vines. Thank you Decanter for inspiring my wine adventure wanderlust. Susan White, Kent

Blending trials


Wine wanderlust THE DRAMATIC ‘JOY of Terroir’ photo of the Colomé vineyard at 2,300m in the Calchaqués Valley (October 2016) inspired a pilgrimage which became the focus of a tour of Salta on our recent, long-dreamed of trip to Argentina. The nerve-wracking drive up the mountains on the narrow, quarry-like path seemed to last forever, but we were rewarded by the sudden appearance of the same vista that appeared in Below: successful trials mean robots may soon play a key role in top vineyards. See p9 for details

WIN A MAGNUM OF CHAMPAGNE BOLLINGER Wine is all about opinions, so why not share yours? If you are amused, enraged or intrigued by anything you’ve read in Decanter or, write or email us at the address listed above. Each month the sender of our star letter will receive a magnum of Champagne Bollinger, courtesy of Mentzendorff, the UK agent (

NEWS OF G3, Penfolds’ tri-vintage blend, caught my eye. I’ve been having dinner with the same friends for almost 30 years where we blind-taste wines. Often there is a little left in the bottles from the main course, so blending of what’s left invariably produces a pleasant glass or two the next night. It works best when we have a vertical tasting from one estate, or the wines are of similar character and quality. It’s worth a try; it seems Penfolds thinks so too. Hal Rollason, Scotland

Face-to-face learning NOVEMBER’S DECANTER FINE Wine Encounter was another triumph. I’ve learned much from my magazine subscription, but have really improved by tasting and talking. The chance to do that with so many producers (and wine critics like Oz Clarke) in such an organised, relaxed and friendly environment is invaluable. David Montgomery, Tadworth, Surrey

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Andrew Jefford ‘We tasted, against “control” magnums buried alongside the casks’ IT WAS LIKE a funeral – in reverse. A curious crowd stood around the giant pit. Below us, picks were flying. First one remnant appeared in the earth, then another. A mechanical digger was drafted in, to excavate delicately around the remains before trowels and shovels did the fine work. After two hours, they were hoisted out, one by one, and laid out on a cart. The smartphones flashed; the throng gawped. Relax: this is not a murder enquiry (though gentle handling and infinite reverence was still required). What had been excavated were three barriques, filled to the brim with Brouilly 2015 and Côte de Brouilly 2015, and they’d spent the last 18 months buried two metres deep ‘in contact with the rock which had given birth to them’, as a nearby panel proclaimed. Rock? It looked like ploughman’s soil to me; the moisture and the worms had eaten away at the barrel chimes, and heavy lumps of clay clung to the staves. We were gathered high on the slopes of Mont Brouilly. The ostensible aim of the exercise was to see how wine evolved when it was buried underground, like pirate doubloons. Why do this? It’s a laborious exercise that’s fraught with uncertainties. Just a few more years in the deep earth would almost certainly have ensured the total destruction of a barrique, just as it does of an oak coffin. The casks were opened; we tasted, against ‘control’ magnums buried alongside the casks at the same time. In two out of the three cases (the Côte de Brouilly, a four-grower blend from the Domaines of Michel Aubry, Franck Tavian, Patrice Monternier and Pascal Mutin at Père Benoît; and the Brouilly of Les Vignerons de Bel Air), the magnums seemed better to me. They were fresher, purer and more vibrant. The wines in the casks had acquired harmony, but were showing some reduction too, as if the earth had suffocated them. The third cask – a Brouilly from Château de Pierreux – seemed broadly similar in each format, though the 14 | F e b r u a r y

What I've been drinking this month I write this as a mellow, mild Languedoc autumn is just drawing to its close – and a bottle of Dog Point’s Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2016 (see also p56) provided a perfect counterpoint to the balmy air. Green, juicy, quenching, unflamboyant (the passion fruit quickly dissipated), it was a graceful, classy and dry incarnation of the luminous, oceanfreshened valleys where 41.5727°S meets 173.4217°E. One glass followed another in a way it rarely does when all the showy stuff has been cranked up.

wine from the buried cask had an additional savoury note (a hint of earthy snail minus the garlic – trust me). The real reason for this elaborate exercise, perhaps, was to draw the world’s attention to the application made by Beaujolais for UNESCO ‘Geopark’ status. This is usually given to areas with ‘geological heritage of international value’ and Beaujolais is keen to be the first wine region to win this accolade. ‘This event,’ said Interprofession president Dominique Piron, ‘won’t do anything for international commerce. But it brings growers and merchants together around a project, it recreates links in the chain, people get together, they talk about wine, they talk about techniques, they exchange with each other... That’s what we’ve been missing as a region during the years of crisis.’ You can’t escape the symbolic value, too. No one claimed that burying a cask of wine in earth can ‘intensify its sense of terroir’ – but I could see the light shining in the eyes of the growers involved; I could feel the pride of the local mayors, wearing their red, white and blue ribbons; and I noted that none of the people there felt that it had been a preposterous thing to do. It was as if the wine was a child which had been placed back in the arms of its mother earth for a while, in some obscure propitiatory ritual. When you look at a vine, fruit included, almost everything you see is made from thin air (carbon dioxide) and rain (water), using solar energy. The principal function of the soil is to stop the plant falling over, and to dose the plant with water through the root system. Why, then, should we not consider that the lineaments of aroma and flavour are made in the air rather than in the soil (which does little more than to provide a nutritional tweak to these processes)? The real terroir of Brouilly may lie in the shape of the hills, their position on earth, the way they face the sun, and the constitution of the skies, clouds, airs and winds overhead, rather than in the soil. One day, perhaps, we’ll know. D

Andrew Jefford is a Decanter contributing editor and the Louis Roederer International Columnist of 2016 for this and his ‘Jefford on Monday’ column at











Join Decanter for this special tasting, showcasing more than 300 of Spain & Portugal’s finest wines SPANISH PRODUCERS INCLUDE: ARAGÓN - El Escocés Volante BIERZO - Arturo Garcia - Prada a Tope - Viños de Arganza CASTILLA Y LÉON - Bodegas Fariña - D.O. Rueda - Tenoira Gayoso CATALUNYA - D.O. Catalunya - Marco Abella - Torres

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11am A thrilling comparison of classic versus modern Spanish wines

Learn from the experts at Decanter’s world-class tutored tastings. Masterclasses last 90 minutes. Tickets are sold separately to Grand Tasting tickets and places are strictly limited.

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Spain and Portugal’s top producers will attend this special Decanter Fine Wine Encounter to pour their wines for you.Your ticket gives you access to the Grand Tasting rooms throughout the day, providing you with the opportunity to visit renowned producers and sample some of the best wines from all the key regions in the Iberian Peninsula. Don’t miss out on your chance to taste hundreds of outstanding wines in one place.



Speaker: Sarah Jane Evans MW, Co Chair of DWWA Join Sarah Jane Evans MW at an exceptional tasting of the best of Spain from north to south and east to west. In this comparative tasting, Sarah Jane has invited her unique contacts in the wine world to unlock their cellars and offer Decanter a selection of rare classics to taste alongside premium new wines to illustrate the dynamic changes at work in Spain today. 13 wines will be showcased from Jerez, Ribera del Duero, RĂ­as Baixas, Rioja and Priorat and the tasting will include the first appearance of Dominio de Pingus at a London Decanter Fine Wine Encounter event. This will be a fascinating masterclass and one not to miss. s 0AZO DE 3EĂ—ORANS 3ELECCIĂ˜N DE !Ă—ADA 2Ă“AS "AIXAS 













A series of informal tutored tastings featuring six great wines per session. Tickets are sold separately from Grand Tasting tickets. 11.30am Portugal – a journey through authenticity and diversity

1.30pm Spanish masters of terroir from Rioja, Ribera and Bierzo


Speakers: Ricardo Palacios from Descendientes de J. Palacios; Javier Zaccagnini from Aalto; Juan Carlos LĂłpez de Lacalle from Artadi In this special masterclass a trio of top bodegas from three different Spanish regions showcase their finest wines.Widely regarded as visionaries and leaders, Descendientes de J. Palacios,Aalto and Artadi have each in their own way pioneered new paths to excellence.The Palacios family, who need no introduction on the

Explore a line up of celebrated vintages from

Spanish wine scene, put the Bierzo region firmly on the map;Artadi famously left the Consejo Regulador

some Portugal’s best producers

de Rioja in the pursuit of a more terroir driven approach and Aalto’s winemaker Mariano García was

1.45pm Vintage Rioja with Conde de los Andes Discover six top wines from one of Rioja’s oldest cellars 4pm Ribeiro’s top wines Now is the time to discover this exciting region, with Sarah Jane Evans MW

former winemaking director at Vega Sicilia for 30 years. Spain’s most thrilling winemakers come together in this masterclass to bring you nine unforgettable wines to taste. s $ESCENDIENTES DE * 0ALACIOS 6ILLA DE #ORULLĂ˜N 




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4pm Discover the ageing potential of Douro wines


Speakers: Francisco Ferreira from Quinta do Vallado; Miguel & Tomås Roquette from Quinta do Crasto; Dirk van der Niepoort from Niepoort Vinhos; Francisca van Zeller from Quinta Vale D. Maria; Francisco Olazabal from Quinta do Vale Meão Join Decanter for an exciting double tasting with the Douro Boys – a group of five estates recognised as among Portugal’s best producers. Each estate will be presenting two vintages, one old, one young, to give you a fascinating insight into these incredible wines and how they develop over time. Encompassing white, red and fortified, hear from the winemakers first hand about the array of factors influencing the wines and what might shape them in the years ahead. s 1UINTA DO 6ALLADO 2ESERVA $OURO 7HITE  AND  s 1UINTA DO #RASTO 4OURIGA.ACIONAL$OURO2ED AND Terms and conditions apply.The information is correct at time of publication but the organisers reserve the right to change any part of the event without notice. No under 18s, including babes in arms.


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Burgundy 2016 Devastating frost made its mark on this vintage, slashing yields and resulting in uneven quality. But the best examples are still worth buying, says William Kelley, especially premiers and grands crus reds, and value wines from Côte Chalonnaise ALONG THE COTE d’Or, no one could recall anything like it. Burgundy is no stranger to frost, but the night of 26-27 April was unique, striking not just the low-lying regional and village appellations, but many celebrated grands and premiers crus upslope. Vineyards that normally escape unscathed were razed. ‘I’ve never heard of Echezeaux freezing,’ reflected Emmanuel Rouget. ‘My uncle Henri Jayer said that even Richebourg froze in the winter of 1947, but never Echezeaux.’ Christophe Roumier, whose vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny were hit hard, agreed: ‘It’s certainly unprecedented in my career.’ The caprice of the April frosts, denuding some vineyards of grapes while leaving others untouched, has left an indelible mark on the 2016 wines, resulting in almost unexampled heterogeneity. Generalising about a vintage is always a challenge, but in 2016 it is close to impossible. This year, more than ever, the devil is in the detail. Before 27 April, the Côte d’Or was looking forward to a copious crop; indeed, many growers in Morey-St-Denis, which escaped the freeze, reported their largest harvest since 1999. Consequently, distinctions were stark between frosted parcels, cropped at often punishingly low yields, and the generous production of vines that survived unscathed. ➢ 18 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

‘Generalising about a vintage is always a challenge, but in 2016 it is close to impossible’

Photograph: Mike Prior. With thanks to Hedonism Wines (, The Wine Society ( and Hatch Mansfield ( for the loan of the bottles

Vintage preview


Kelley’s pick of 2016 The 2016s are bottled in WANT January 2018, hence prices MORE? and alcohols are not yet set. Contact specialist has complete en primeur merchants for allocations tastings coverage of or to enquire about their Burgundy, Rhône & en primeur tastings. Bordeaux The following 101 recommendations are a selection of top-scoring and great-value wines from more than 1,000 barrel samples tasted in October and November 2017. Access all the full notes and scores from

Chablis Domaine François Raveneau, Montée de Tonnerre 1er Cru 94 Superb, bursting from the glass with complex apple blossom, tangerine, confit citrus, peach and intriguing mint. On the palate, the wine is intensely concentrated, stony and complete, with first-class cut and grip through the long, flavourful finish. Drink 2022-2035 Domaine Louis Michel, Séchet 1er Cru 93 Fabulously complex citrus pith, grapefruit and mint aromas. On the palate, the wine’s glossy attack is followed by a briny, stony note with real mineral grip and a lovely juicy core. A standout in the range this year. Drink 2019-2027 William Fèvre, Les Clos Grand Cru 93 Excellent this year, opening to a complex nose of orange blossom and orange zest, confit citrus and spice. Textural, full-bodied and complete, with a deep core, lovely minerality and impressive dimension. Drink 2019-2027 Eleni & Edouard Vorcoret, Butteaux 1er Cru 91 An impressive achievement in 2016. Notes of citrus peel, white peach, honeysuckle and wheat toast. Taut on the lengthy palate, mineral and focused, with good energy and depth. Drink 2019-2025 Patrick Piuze, Coteau de Fontenay 91 Very classic, transcending the vintage’s vagaries. Aromas of citrus zest, oyster shell and white flowers introduce a cool, glossy palate with a lovely line of acidity, good depth and serious grip on the finish. Drink 2018-2028 Louis Jadot, Montée de Tonnerre 1er Cru 90 Quite serious, with a classic bouquet of wet stones, lemon zest and spring flowers, and a taut, stony, medium-full palate with nice cut and grip. Drink 2019-2028 ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 19

Marsannay Domaine Charles Audoin, Les Longeroies 92 A brooding bouquet of wild berries, forest floor and wood smoke introduces a supple, elegantly structured wine with good depth and weight on its bones. Drink 2022-2035

Gevrey-Chambertin Domaine Armand Rousseau, Chambertin Grand Cru 96 The domaine lost 60% of its crop in Chambertin but the grapes which survived have produced a stunning wine. Complex, ripe cherry, strawberry, blood orange, grilled meat and rich soil notes. Full-bodied, fine-grained and complete, with superb length and energy. Drink 2030-2060 Domaine Claude Dugat, Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru 96 Exquisite elegance. Delicate sweet red cherry, pot pourri, sapid earth and grilled meat notes are followed by a beautifully complete palate of velvety tannins swathed in crystalline fruit, its finish long, intense and mineral. Incredible presence and amplitude. Drink 2028-2050 Domaine Denis Bachelet, CharmesChambertin Grand Cru 95 Extraordinary in 2016, from vines planted before 1920. Brooding black cherry, blueberry, forest floor and well-integrated new oak. Ample body and very elegant, with a lovely core of cool fruit, layered texture, and a long, scintillating finish. Delightfully transparent. Drink 2026-2050 Domaine Louis Boillot & Fils, Cherbaudes 1er Cru 94 Just three barrels made from 104-year-old vines; one of the finest Gevrey premier crus in 2016. Brooding, savoury nose of dark fruit and cocoa and a full, complete palate of rich tannins. Lovely depth and energy. Drink 2026-2040 Domaine Dugat-Py, Coeur du Roy Très Vieilles Vignes 93 From vines 60 to 150 years old. Cassis, cherry and truffle, framed by new oak. Quite gourmand palate of intense concentration and fresh acidity. Vinified with 50% whole-cluster fruit; transcends expectations of a village wine. Drink 2026-2045 Domaine Duroché, Lavaut-St-Jacques 1er Cru 92 Brooding bouquet of black cherry, blueberry, currant, soil and smoke. On the palate, more power and structure, with a firm chassis of tannins and wild fruit flavours. Drink 2024-2040

Domaine Duroché, Aux Etelois 91 Creamy, red-black cherry and wild plum mingle

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‘Having lost half my crop to frost, I was in no mood to lose what remained to mildew’ Jean-Michel Chartron, Domaine Jean Chartron, Puligny-Montrachet

As smaller yields ripen faster, vines that had lost some of their crop to the frost tended to bring their grapes to maturity much more rapidly than those which escaped. As if that were not enough, some frosted vines produced second and third generations of grapes, which ripened after their elder siblings. Picking the ideal moment to harvest the frosted vines, parcel by parcel, was thus a complicated affair: many were forced to compromise. Those who got it right – and many did – often made beautiful wines, their concentration amplified by the tiny yields. For the less successful growers, the results vary: some 2016s are extremely ripe, while others are lean and tart. A few unfortunate producers who harvested very ripe firstgeneration grapes together with under-ripe second- and third-generation grapes made

Above: growers often light fires in old oil drums to help protect their vines from damaging frosts

Kelley’s top 10 value whites ■ Domaine Louis Michel, Chablis ■ Domaine VIncent Dureuil-Janthial, Mazières, Rully ■ Domaine Marc Colin & Fils, Santenay ■ Domaine Alain Gras, St-Romain ■ Domaine Guffens-Heynen, En Crazy, Mâcon-Pierreclos ■ Domaine J-A Ferret, Autour de la Roche, Pouilly-Fuissé ■ Domaine Louis Michel, Les Clos Grand Cru Chablis ■ Patrick Piuze, Vaulorent 1er Cru Chablis ■ Louis Jadot, Grèves 1er Cru Beaune ■ Domaine Rapet, Sous Frétille 1er Cru Pernand-Vergelesses


White Burgundy 1 2 3 4 5








River Serein


Chablis Côte de Nuits Côte de Beaune Côte Chalonnaise Mâconnais

kilometres N







Photograph: Bon Appetit/Alamy Stock Photo. Map: Maggie Nelson





River Saône

Meursault PulignyMontrachet

Lyon Vienne

NORTH RHONE Valence River Rhône

2 PernandVergelesses


AloxeCorton Beaune





River Saône





Golfe du Lyon

wines which unite both characteristics in an unhappy amalgam. The small yields of 2016 also presented problems in the winery and cellar, frequently enforcing a departure from the house style. Fermenting small volumes can be difficult, so some growers blended appellations that they normally vinify separately; others used more whole-cluster fruit than usual to make up volume in their tanks. In the cellar, with many domaines producing less than half of a normal crop, maintaining consistent percentages of new oak was often impossible. Some growers opted to use a larger proportion of new barrels than usual, others to use none at all. These different responses to 2016’s challenges only amplified the heterogeneity of the raw materials.

Frost, then mildew A blow-by-blow account of which appellations suffered and which were spared could easily occupy the entirety of this report, as the frost’s impact and the vines’ response often varied from one row of vines to the next. In brief, however, the villages which were hardest hit were Marsannay, Flagey-Echezeaux, Vougeot, Chambolle-Musigny, Nuits-St- ➢



River Saône

with rich soil on a supple palate of superb depth, tension and length. The most elegant village bottling in the portfolio. Drink 2020-2030 Domaine Fourrier, Vieilles Vignes 90 A great success, effectively equivalent in quality to many of Fourrier’s premier crus. Succulent cherry fruit, rich soil notes and new oak. Full, deep and concentrated. Drink 2024-2040 Joseph Drouhin 87 Classic, spicy nose of black fruit and grilled meat, and a chewy palate of decent depth and structure. Never going to be profound, but a fine representation of Gevrey. Drink 2020-2030

Chambolle-Musigny Joseph Drouhin, Musigny Grand Cru 96 Superb in 2016. Deep bouquet of ripe red cherry, liquorice, truffle, wild rose and game. Deep, layered palate, its tannins rich and velvety, its finish long. Perfect balance – a strikingly complete wine. Drink 2030-2050 Domaine Georges Roumier, Les Amoureuses 1er Cru 95 Fabulous this year: rosehip, peony, red cherry and wild strawberry, its new oak beautifully integrated. Ample yet incredibly fine and silky, its sweet core of fruit vibrant and expansive. Caresses the palate. Drink 2026-2045 Domaine François Bertheau, Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 94 Wild bouquet of blackberry, strawberry and cherry framed by notes of soil and game. Chassis of rich, ripe tannins, cloaked in a glossy core of fruit. Beautifully elegant and refined – Bertheau’s most serious wine. Drink 2025-2045

‘The first thing to know is that there isn’t any wine’ Guillaume Michel, of Domaine Louis Michel in Chablis, who lost 50% of his harvest

Louis Jadot, Les Fuées 1er Cru 93 A highlight in the Jadot range in 2016. Pure cherry, raspberry, peony and classy new oak. Layered, deep core of pure fruit of excellent concentration and fine tannins. This will develop beautifully in the cellar. Drink 2026-2040 Domaine Ghislaine Barthod 92 Sweet red cherry, pot pourri and cocoa aromas. Very concentrated, with a deep core of fruit concealing rich tannins and leading to a precise, tangy and long finish. I doubt there is a better Chambolle villages in 2016. Drink 2025-2038 Domaine Gilbert & Christine Felettig, Clos du Village 90 Expressive cherry-berry and flower aromas, followed by a fine, supple palate underpinned by bright acidity. Pretty. Drink 2023-2035 ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 21

Morey-St-Denis Domaine Dujac, Clos-St-Denis Grand Cru 96 Superb! Elegant, floral nose of rose, sweet red berry fruit, cinnamon, cocoa and integrated new oak. Full-bodied and complete palate, its velvety tannins cloaked in a vibrant core of fruit, delineated with real clarity. Drink 2026-2045 Domaine du Clos de Tart, Clos de Tart Grand Cru Monopole 95 Pulls at the heartstrings as well as the head. Ineffably complete with superb dimension and depth, velvety tannins and a deep core of fruit. Concentrated but elegant. Jacques Devauges has hit the ground running. Drink 2027-2045 Domaine Hubert Lignier, Vieilles Vignes, 1er Cru 93 Excellent concentration and depth. A deep core of espresso, game, dark fruit and rich soil, and a long, flavourful finish. One of the domaine’s emblematic cuvées. Drink 2026-2050 Domaine Chantal Remy, Clos des Rosières 1er Cru Monopole 90 Newly planted with young vines, separated from Clos des Lambrays by a brick wall. Already has lovely structural elegance and endearing generosity; greater depth and complexity will come as the vines mature. Drink 2022-2040


Photographs: Mick Rock/Cephas; France TV Info

Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 97 The Mugneret sisters set the standard for what is possible in Clos Vougeot. Complex rose, plums, soil, spice and incense framed by oak (70% new). Pure and complete, with a deep core of fruit that cloaks fine tannins, succulent acidity and superb length. Effortless harmony. One of the wines of the vintage. Drink 2028-2050 Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noëllat, Les Petits Vougeots 1er Cru 91 Expressive raspberry, cherry and flowers, then a full, velvety palate with ample sweet fruit of crystalline purity. An unheralded appellation that is Chambolle in all but name. Drink 2022-2035

Vosne-Romanée Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, RomanéeConti Grand Cru 98 King of the DRC cellar in 2016, even at this early stage. Profound bouquet of pot pourri, peony, crisp berry fruit and elegant spice, its new wood already entirely integrated. Full, limpid and velvety, with perfectly ripe tannins, a deep core of cool fruit and a rare sense of effortless harmony. Totally sublime! Drink 2030-2055 22 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Kelley’s top 10 value reds ■ Domaine Pierre Guillemot, Vieilles Vignes, Savigny-lès-Beaune ■ Domaine Duroché, Aux Etelois, Gevrey-Chambertin ■ Domaine Charles Adouin, Cuvée Marie Ragonneau, Marsannay ■ Domaine Joseph Voillot, Pommard ■ Domaine Michel Juillot, Clos des Barraults 1er Cru Mercurey ■ Domaine Faiveley, La Framboisière, Mercurey ■ Joseph Drouhin, Rully ■ Domaine François Racquillet, Vieilles Vignes, Mercurey ■ Domaine Hubert Lignier, Triologie, Morey-St-Denis ■ Louis Jadot, Chouacheux 1er Cru Beaune

Georges, Pernand-Vergelesses, Savigny-lèsBeaune, Beaune, Meursault and ChassagneMontrachet. Santenay and Morey-St-Denis were almost entirely spared, while PulignyMontrachet, Volnay, Pommard, AloxeCorton, Gevrey-Chambertin and Fixin were damaged in places and untouched in others. But if the 2016 vintage will be long remembered for the April frosts, what of the rest of the growing season? A mild winter gave succour to vine diseases and parasites, as well as precipitating an early bud break. Then, the humid weather that persisted largely unabated until 15 July nourished the worst attack of mildew since 2004, with record-breaking rainfall making it difficult to apply treatments in the vineyards. Several growers were forced to temporarily abandon their organic or biodynamic principles. ‘Having lost half my crop to frost,’ said Puligny-Montrachet’s Jean-Michel Chartron, ‘I was in no mood to lose what remained to mildew.’ Unlike the frost, these challenges were relatively even-handed in their impact. From 15 July onwards, the remainder of the growing season was sunny and dry, with a prevailing northerly wind. Light rainfall in early September, and then again on 16 and 18 September, alleviated hydric stress, allowing vines to ripen their grapes. It was only at the beginning of October that sustained rainfall began, but by then many growers had happily already brought in all their grapes. This warm, dry weather saved the vintage. As Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti put it, ‘We found ourselves believing in miracles!’ Of course, those who had lost much of their harvest found it hard

Below: Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier pruning in his Les Amoureuses vineyard in Chambolle-Musigny


to muster much enthusiasm, and the mood along the Côte d’Or was far from jubilant.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Richebourg Grand Cru 97 Explosive nose of rose, strawberry, wild berries, clove and cocoa, with hints of the earthiness to come. Ample, layered palate, richly textural with velvety tannins, and a long, sapid finish. An especially strong year. Drink 2028-2050

Silver linings But as producers began to taste their wines, their attitude changed. ‘It was difficult to imagine that the 2016s could ever rival the 2015s,’ says Pierre Duroché of GevreyChambertin, ‘but today I think it’s possible’ – a sentiment echoed by many of his fellow producers. In fact, at some addresses the 2016 reds don’t merely rival but actually surpass what was achieved in 2015, although in a very different register. Whereas the 2015 reds were rich, lusty and ample, the successful 2016s are more vibrant and less massive. A diverse cast of vignerons, including Emmanuel Rouget, Frédéric Lafarge and Bertrand Dugat, identify ‘energy’ as their defining characteristic. Their sappy vitality lends them a certain friendly immediacy, but they should keep well, too. Importantly, distinctions of site are articulated with clarity in 2016. The downside is that the lower appellations do not often transcend their place in the hierarchy this year. If 2015 was a great year for regional and villages appellations, the high points of 2016 are more typically located among the premiers and grands crus. The 2016 whites are less inspiring than the reds: generally open-knit, and lacking both tension and concentration; most will be at their best in their youth. Indeed, many serious producers expressed satisfaction if they were at least able to produce something that respected their house style and the differences between their appellations. ➢

Above: a young vine snapped in two by the hail which hit several top appellations in the Mâconnais

Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noëllat, Romanée-St-Vivant Grand Cru 95 Dramatic aromas of red cherry, rich black fruit, smoked duck and a pungent top-note of violets. Detailed palate: its velvety tannins swathed in an ample core of sapid, succulent fruit, its finish long and flavourful. Drink 2026-2045 Domaine Emmanuel Rouget, Beaux Monts 1er Cru 94 Aromas of grilled meat, espresso, black fruits, and liquorice. Deep, full and concentrated palate of fine-grained tannins, excellent depth and dimension, and terrific intensity. Juicy acidity gives lovely balance. Drink 2026-2046 Louis Jadot, Echezeaux Grand Cru 94 This 2016 does not disappoint despite the heavy frost here. Wood smoke, ripe cherry, earth and grilled meat on an expansive palate with elegant tannins and good balancing acidity. Quite giving in personality. Drink 2026-2040 Joseph Drouhin, 1er Cru 93 A highlight of the Drouhin range this year. Deep, concentrated and full palate of lovely intensity, a sappy core of fruit, beautifully refined tannins and superb balance. Drink 2024-2038 Domaine Cécile Tremblay, Vieilles Vignes 91 Deeper fruit tones of black raspberry and plum mingle with exotic spices and a framing of new oak. An ample village wine with silky and substantial tannins. Drink 2025-2040 Domaine Sylvain Cathiard 90 Seductive bouquet of ripe dark fruit, red cherry, spice and creamy new oak (more controlled than in recent vintages). Full-bodied, cool and concentrated, with velvety tannins and good energy and tension. Drink 2024-2040

Nuits-St-Georges Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg, Les Chaignots 1er Cru 94 35% less Chaignots than usual this year, but still superb. Vibrant, creamy black fruit, incense, spice and grilled squab, framed by deft new oak on a broad, supple palate. Fine tannins and a long, penetrating finish. One of Burgundy’s best-kept secrets. Drink 2026-2046 ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 23

Domaine Robert Chevillon, Les Cailles 1er Cru 94 Excellent this year. Wild berries, meat, wood smoke and spice. Elegant and expansive, its fine-grained tannins hidden under an intense core of fruit. Reticent now, but that is only an indication of its seriousness. Drink 2026-2045 Domaine Méo-Camuzet, Les Boudots 1er Cru 92 Attractive rose, strawberry, black cherry and spice marked by whole-cluster fruit which Méo finds adds seriousness. Fine-grained, supple and silky, ample on the attack and then firm on the finish. Needs some time. Drink 2025-2040

Domaine Robert Chevillon, Vieilles Vignes 90 Attractive, expressive bouquet of wild berries, blackcurrant and rich soil. Concentrated, supple palate, its fine but firm tannins nicely cloaked in a core of ripe, juicy fruit. Drink 2024-2040




Photograph: Mick Rock/Cephas

Domaine Bonneau du Martray, CortonCharlemagne Grand Cru 93 A success in this challenging year. White peach, nutmeg and citrus zest on a glossy and elegant palate of saline minerality and an impressive sense of reserve. Not the most concentrated or taut, but showing very well. Drink 2020-2033 Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 92 Good cut and precision in this tricky vintage: confit citrus, lime, white flowers and brioche. Glossy, textural attack underpinned by a taut, vibrant core of acidity and stony minerality. This shows promise. Drink 2018-2026 Chandon de Briailles, Bressandes Grand Cru 94 Fermented with 100% whole-cluster fruit. Complex plum, spice, bitter orange, dried

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Corton Domaine Rapet Père & Fils, CortonCharlemagne Grand Cru 94 An impressive achievement in 2016, capturing a tension and energy that many of the vintage’s whites lack. Reserved nose of grapefruit pith, apple, citrus zest, white flowers and chalky soil. Concentrated, taut palate of fine grip, detail and focus. Tangy, mineral finish. Drink 2022-2040








River Saône








MoreySt-Denis ChambolleMusigny


River Rhône






Golfe du Lyon N74



COTE DE BEAUNE ChoreyLès-Beaune

Beaune Pommard 0

Volnay N74

5 kilometres


Map: Maggie Nelson

Domaine Ghislaine Barthod, Les Bons Bâtons 89 Routinely among the best Bourgognes made, and its potential for ageing should not be underestimated. Pure, creamy cherry fruit, fine tannins and good amplitude. It would be easy to find inferior village wines. Drink 2020-2035


flowers and forest floor. Full, structured palate with supple tannins and lovely energy. Already expressive and generous. Drink 2026-2050 Louis Jadot, Pougets Grand Cru 94 One of the stars of the Jadot range in 2016. Sapid black fruit, mossy soil, roasted game and coffee. Bright and concentrated palate with a deep core of fruit, supple tannins and superb energy on the long finish. Drink 2024-2045 Louis Latour, Château Corton Grancey Grand Cru 93 The pinnacle of Latour’s Corton range this year. Black fruit, forest floor, orange zest and cedary new oak. Chalky tannins are underpinned by fresh, tense acidity, the fruit revealing excellent concentration and depth. Drink 2025-2045


Not everyone, however, was so fortunate. Where small crops ripened rapidly, the wines are musky, exotic and atypical. Others reveal a tart core of acidity – from unripe second- and third-generation fruit – that reminds Jean-Philippe Fichet of the wines of the 1970s. It’s possible that they may surprise with time. But what of the north and south? Chablis, like the Côte d’Or, was devastated by frost and beset by mildew. The 2016s will be scarce: ‘The first thing to know is that there isn’t any wine’, said Guillaume Michel of Domaine Louis Michel, who lost 50% of his harvest. Many Chablis wines, especially those from frosted vineyards, are exotic and rather atypical, but some producers have done well; and, as with the Côte d’Or reds, it was only towards the end of their maturation in barrel that their promise became apparent. After initial misgivings, Etiennette Dauvissat has come to believe her 2016s will outlast the family’s lovely 2015s. In southern Burgundy, 2016 is a consistently superb vintage for Côte Chalonnaise reds from Mercurey, Givry and Rully. As the wines of the Côte d’Or attain ever higher prices, it is here that true value is to be found. The whites, by contrast, are mostly rich, gourmand and open-knit; wines for the restaurant, not for the cellar. In the Mâconnais, the picture is mixed. Hail struck several of the region’s grander appellations in the south, especially ➢

Above: looking over the town of Chablis from the grand cru vineyard of Les Clos

‘It was difficult to imagine the 2016s could ever rival the 2015s, but today I think it’s possible’ Pierre Duroché, Domaine Duroché, Gevrey-Chambertin

Domaine Pierre Guillemot, Vieilles Vignes 90 Concentrated and serious with real substance and dimension for its level. Guillemot’s grapes from the Les Grands Picotins lieu-dit, ordinarily bottled separately, augment his generic village cuvée this year. Drink 2020-2035

Pommard Domaine Bernard & Thierry Glantenay, Les Rugiens 1er Cru 95 From 0.2ha of vines planted in 1935. Brooding red-black fruit, grilled meat, pot pourri and spice aromas. A bottomless core of fruit cloaks rich, fine tannins, with an energy and precision that makes this very compelling. Drink 2027-2050 Domaine Joseph Voillot, Les Epenots 1er Cru 94 Superb this year. Black cherry, summer truffle, rich soil tones and subtle oak. Concentrated, deep and full on the palate with an ample chassis of rich tannins and an endless core of cool fruit. Drink 2026-2040 Comte Armand, Clos des Epeneaux 1er Cru Monopole 93 After 20 years of over-extracted, oaky wines from this address, it’s lovely to see the inherent elegance of this great terroir. Wild berries, dried rose, orange and summer truffle on a full palate with fine-grained tannins. Drink 2026-2045 Domaine Fernand & Laurent Pillot, Les Rugiens 1er Cru 93 Expansive and full-bodied with a deep core of fruit, rich and enrobed tannins, and a lovely vibrancy and energy throughout the long, penetrating finish. An address that deserves to be better known. Drink 2026-2040 ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 25

Louis Jadot, Clos de la Commaraine 1er Cru 92 Just 60% of the normal crop. Pretty bouquet of sweet red fruit, orange rind, spice and bitter chocolate. Supple, velvety and full, with bright acidity, nice detail and excellent length. Drink 2022-2040 Domaine Launay-Horiot, Les Chaponnières 1er Cru 89 Red cherry, black raspberry, grilled meat and wood smoke notes with fine-grained but firm tannins. Austere and structural; needs time in the cellar. Drink 2023-2040


premier cru. Deep cherry, black raspberry, spice and rich soil aromas precede a rich, ample, full-bodied palate with a deep core of juicy, vibrant fruit and a framing of fine tannins. Drink 2020-2035

Meursault Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Les Charmes 1er Cru 94 Excellent in 2016. Expressive spring flowers, orchard fruit, honey, almond and hazelnut. Concentrated, with almost chewy extract and lovely completeness, its acidity fresh and racy. Drinks well now but will age too. Drink 2022-2040

Domaine Michel Lafarge, Clos des Chênes 1er Cru 95 Kaleidoscopic complexity of cherry, bitter chocolate, wild berries, game and truffle. Ample and concentrated with fine but firm tannins, superb energy and endless depth of fruit. Juicy vibrancy lingers on the haunting finish. Drink 2030-2050

Domaine Pierre Morey, Les Perrières 1er Cru 94 Reticent bouquet of orange zest, lemon, crushed rocks and iodine. Taut, glossy attack, with a bright line of acidity and good intensity in a stern, tight-knit style. Should fill out and put on mid-palate weight. Drink 2025-2040

Domaine Joseph Voillot, En Champans 1er Cru 94 Brooding, savoury aromas of plum, cassis, cherry, grilled meat and soil. Concentrated and full with a deep core of vibrant fruit and a rich frame of ripe tannins. Excellent potential. Drink 2026-2040

Domaine Roulot, Clos des Bouchères 1er Cru 94 Exceptional in 2016. Lovely bouquet of fresh apple, pear, mint, spring flowers and pastry cream. Glossy, ample and elegant, with lovely energy and freshness, but also considerable depth and dimension. Good tension and grip. Drink 2020-2035

Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Champans 1er Cru 93 Aromas of red cherry, wood smoke and classy new oak. Unusually elegant this year, its impressively ample tannins have lovely finesse, and its deep core of fruit is juicy and vibrant. Drink 2025-2040 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, Les Taillepieds 1er Cru 92 Wild briar fruit, spice and game framed by new oak. Austere and powerful, with tensile tannins and a reserved, saline finish. Promising. Drink 2026-2045 Domaine Bernard & Thierry Glantenay 91 Effectively one-third premier cru – and it shows. Red-black cherry, violet and cocoa notes of excellent depth, dimension and concentration. Silky amplitude with bright acidity and vibrant fruit. Drink 2022-2040

Auxey-Duresses Domaine Jean & Gilles Lafouge, La Chapelle 1er Cru 93 Lafouge is one of two owners in this lovely

Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet, Les Tessons 93 Superb this year: complex pear, hazelnut and citrus zest. Concentrated and glossy, with fine amplitude and dimension, but lovely cut and energy too. An excellent wine by any measure – and in any vintage. Drink 2020-2035 Louis Jadot, Perrières 1er Cru 93 The first vintage Jadot made a Perrières from estate vines, having recently acquired this parcel. Citrus zest, spring flowers and chalky soil tones, followed by a concentrated palate of good depth and a taut, mineral finish. Drink 2020-2035 Domaine Bachelet-Monnot, Clos du Cromin 91 Rich and gastronomic. Classic poached pear, peach and oatmeal precedes a layered, detailed plate underpinned by juicy acidity which balances out its voluminousness. Will deliver a lot of pleasure. Drink 2018-2028

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Puligny-Montrachet Domaine Marc Colin & Fils, Montrachet Grand Cru 96 Already expressive and clearly one of the whites of the vintage. Bright, detailed lemon zest, orange blossom, ripe peach and yellow orchard fruit nose then a deep, full, layered palate of amazing amplitude, chewy extract and intensity. Complete and compelling. Drink 2022-2040 Domaine Vincent Dancer, ChevalierMontrachet Grand Cru 95 Creamy citrus confit, lime zest, oyster shell, chalky soil tones and pastry cream. Tense, bottomless core of fruit, searing intensity and superb purity and precision. More open than the 2015 and 2014 were at the same stage. One of the whites of the vintage. Drink 2022-2035 Domaine Bachelet-Monnot, Folatières 1er Cru 94 Superb this year. Complex mandarin oil, preserved lemon, white peach and chalky soil tones on a concentrated, layered palate with a deep, pure core, backed by bright acidity. Very compelling and appealingly classical. Drink 2020-2030 Domaine Jacques Carillon, BienvenuesBâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 94 2016’s lone barrel of Bienvenues is superb. Peach, pear, mandarin, iodine and wet stones. On the palate it is ample and expansive, with a glossy, rich attack and a long, sapid finish. Open-knit, accessible and totally delicious. Drink 2020-2035 Domaine François Carillon, Les Perrières 1er Cru 93 A young classic. White stone fruit, pastry cream and chalky soil. Cool, glossy and refined, its balance perfect, finishing with great length and detail. Drink 2020-2035 Domaine Leflaive, Les Pucelles 1er Cru 93 Pucelles takes a clear lead over the other premier crus this year, its lovely bouquet of apple, preserved lemon, pastry cream and white flowers introducing a racy, elegant and full-bodied palate with good concentration, intensity and energy. Will reward bottle age. Drink 2022-2035

Domaine Chavy-Chouet, Les Enseignères 92 Superb this year: flowers, white peach and struck match. Intense, concentrated


and tight-knit, with a deep core of fruit and brisk acidity. A lovely rendition of this superior village lieu-dit. Drink 2020-2030

Decanter vintage ratings Chablis 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Côte d’Or (white)

Côte d’Or (red)

3 3.5 4.5 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 4

4 5 4 3.5 4 2.5 4.5 4 3 3 3.5 5

3.5 4.5 4.5 4 4 3.5 5 3 4 4 3 4

This is a broad-brush indicator of overall vintage quality, where 5 is the highest possible score. Take these into account when considering wine scores (ie: a Chablis scoring 95/100 in 2010 is ‘better’ than a Chablis scoring the same in 2009.

St-Véran, and the grapes that survived sometimes ripened too quickly. On the other hand, vineyards which were spared were often grotesquely over-cropped, producing dilute and vegetal wines. The best examples are similar to the 2014s, but with less tension and more amplitude.

Drink, keep… or avoid? So, the big question: are these wines to buy? They will certainly be expensive. Even with the prospect of a plentiful harvest in 2017, many producers are facing financial pressures after a string of small crops, and most will be forced to increase their tariffs; increases only amplified by the weak pound. The wines, moreover, will be scarce; and not only because of the year’s low yields. As Burgundians increasingly tire of seeing their wines immediately resold on international markets (a practice endemic among UK wine merchants), British consumers are likely to find their allocations reduced. But the Côte d’Or’s many excellent reds will be well worth snapping up, and it would be a pity if their quality were hidden in the shadow of the superb 2015s. The 2016 whites should be bought selectively and earmarked for comparatively near-term consumption. Finally, value-seekers should explore the lovely Pinot Noirs of the Côte Chalonnaise. The 2016 vintage is not a year to buy blindly, but it’s certainly a vintage to buy. D William Kelley is a freelance wine writer based in the US with a special interest in the wines of Burgundy and California

Below: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée-Conti Grand Cru was William Kelley’s top-rated wine from his Burgundy 2016 tastings, scoring 98 points (see p22)

Domaine Leflaive 90 One of the best generic Pulignys in 2016. Notes of citrus zest, spring flowers and white peach on an elegant palate with succulent acidity, good concentration and a taut finish for the vintage. Drink 2020-2030

Chassagne-Montrachet Domaine Bernard Moreau, Les Grandes Ruchottes 1er Cru 94 Superb; manages to transcend some of the vintage’s limitations. Aromas of apple, pear, iodine, pastry cream and subtle oak precede a full, complete palate of lovely depth, tension and grip. Not quite the level of 2014 or 2015, but an excellent wine nonetheless. Drink 2023-2040 Lamy-Caillat 90 Excellent in this challenging vintage, with a complex, expressive nose of preserved lemon, nutmeg, butter and dried flowers. Textural and open-knit with a mineral finish. Will be comparatively forward. Drink 2020-2030

St-Aubin Domaine Marc Colin & Fils, En Montceau 1er Cru 93 From 70-year-old vines – arguably St-Aubin’s best terroir for white wine. Aromas of pastry cream, citrus zest, confit lemon and chalky soil tones are followed by a full-bodied palate with racy acidity, chewy extract and a deep, solid core of fruit. Drink 2021-2035 Domaine Hubert Lamy, En Remilly 1er Cru 92 Concentrated and textural preserved lemon, zest and pastry cream. Supple, glossy and full-bodied, with succulent acidity, lovely amplitude and dimension. Drink 2022-2033

Santenay Domaine Anne-Marie & Jean-Marc Vincent, Les Gravières 1er Cru 92 Complex orange blossom, orange zest, bitter lemon and wheat toast aromas on a tense, concentrated and quite giving palate, its ample core of juicy fruit nicely balanced by a bright line of acidity. Drink 2020-2030 Domaine Hubert Lamy, Clos des Gravières 1er Cru 90 Aromas of pot pourri and wild berries, framed by spicy new oak. Intense and concentrated palate supported by fine tannins and superb energy and length. Drink 2022-2035 ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 27



Côte Chalonnaise


Domaine Chevrot & Fils, Le Croix Moines 1er Cru 92 Arguably the best terroir in Maranges. Vinified in 2016 with 50% whole-cluster fruit, it shows expressive pot pourri, plum, cocoa and raspberry with earthy hints. Velvety and elegant, with supple tannins and a deep core of fruit. Drink 2022-2035

Domaine Vincent Dureuil-Janthial, Margotés 1er Cru Rully 92 From vines planted in 1945. Tensile and mineral. Pretty pastry cream, chamomile and preserved lemon aromas lead to an ample but detailed palate with lovely structural refinement and energy. Drink 2020-2030

Domaine Guffens-Heynen, Juliette et les Vieilles de Chavigne, MâconPierreclos 95 From grapes which normally go into Tri de Chavigne (below). Pure, direct fresh citrus, preserved lemon, struck flint and chalky soil tones. Concentrated, intense and incisive – cuts like a knife and has a long, precise finish. Superb! Drink 2021-2040

Domaine Bachelet-Monnot, La Fussière 1er Cru 91 Consistently excellent. Supple black cherry, anise, liquorice and new oak structured around fine tannins, this is detailed and vibrant, and should offer a broad drinking window. Drink 2020-2030

Château de Chamirey, Clos du Roi 1er Cru Mercurey 92 Superb this year. Red cherry, summer fruits and meaty, earthy base notes. Supple, full-bodied and layered palate with a fine but firm chassis of tannins, good concentration and succulent fruit. Drink 2022-2035

Domaine La Soufrandière, Les Quarts, Pouilly-Vinzelles 93 From 4ha of vines averaging 70 years. Reserved orchard and stone fruit, preserved citrus and wheat toast. Glossy layered palate with superb depth and a long, saline finish. Drink 2020-2030

Domaine Henri & Gilles Buisson, Sous le Château 90 Deep bouquet of preserved lemon, chalky soil tones and white flowers. The textural and full-bodied palate of ripe fruit is underpinned by saline minerality and racy acidity. Drink 2018-2028

Domaine François Racquillet, Les Vasées 1er Cru Mercurey 92 Excellent effort in 2016. Red cherry, dark fruit compote and meaty notes. The layered and ample palate has fine, ripe tannins beautifully cloaked in a glossy core of fruit. Drink 2020-2035

Domaine J-A Ferret, Tête de Cru Les Perrières, Pouilly-Fuissé 92 Reserved but vibrant bouquet of citrus zest, pastry cream and white flowers, this wine lives up to its name in 2016, thanks to its stony tension, lovely energy and cut. Drink 2020-2030


Domaine Joblot, Clos de la Servoisine 1er Cru Givry 92 Pretty red berries mingle with spice and new oak. Ripe but vibrant palate with fine-grained tannins and deep, succulent fruit. Savoury and intense, this is a Givry that will give a great deal of pleasure. Drink 2020-2035

Domaine Guffens-Heynen, Tri de Chavigne, Mâcon-Pierreclos 92 Complex candied lemon, melon and smoke. The textural and elegantly glossy palate is underpinned by taut acidity and a chalky, grippy finish. Drink 2018-2028


Joseph Drouhin, Clos des Mouches 1er Cru 93 A highlight of Drouhin’s whites this year. Yellow citrus, crisp orchard fruit and honeysuckle, framed by new oak. Glossy, supple and intense palate of lovely depth, excellent textural elegance and a taut, chalky finish. Drink 2019-2033 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol, Clos des Mouches 1er Cru 93 Creamy red cherry and wild berry fruit mingles with spice and earth notes. A beautifully elegant wine, concentrated and pure, with fine tannins cloaked in vibrant fruit. A highlight of the Rossignol range this year. Drink 2022-2038

Domaine Faiveley, La Framboisière, Mercurey 90 Appealing strawberry, raspberry and forest-floor aromas. Supple and flavourful fruit palate with fine tannins. Faiveley makes 40,000 bottles of this lovely cuvée which represents superb value. Drink 2018-2030

Louis Jadot, Clos des Ursules 1er Cru 93 Excellent in 2016. Pretty cherry, orange, rich soil and a top note of violets opens to a supple, full and fine-grained palate with a deep core of fruit, integrated tannins and lovely energy. Drink 2022-2040

Domaine François Racquillet, Vieilles Vignes, Mercurey 88 Attractively savoury nose of wild berries, smoked duck and earthy forest floor notes introduces a supple, silky palate with ripe tannins and a juicy core of fruit. Delicious. Drink 2020-2035

Domaine de Croix, Bressandes 1er Cru 92 Rich black cherry, soil, cocoa and umamilike base notes; the prelude to a firmer, more austere full-bodied wine, with firm tannins emerging. Drink 2022-2035

Joseph Drouhin, Rully 88 Lovely cherry, rich spice and earth aromas precede a sapid, savoury palate with succulent acidity and chewy tannins on the finish. A lovely Rully that should be excellent value. Drink 2019-2026

28 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Domaine J-A Ferret, Pouilly-Fuissé 89 Pretty citrus, pear and pastry cream notes on a concentrated palate with lovely cut and acidity. A serious and modern wine made from young vines. Drink 2018-2026 Domaine Guerrin Père et Fils, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuissé 89 Youngest vines are 40 to 50 years old. Creamy preserved citrus, honey and subtle new oak on a concentrated, glossy palate of good depth. Tight-knit, serious and elegant. Drink 2018-2026 Olivier Merlin, Les Cras, Mâcon-La Roche Vineuse 89 Excellent this year. Nicely concentrated, with a good core of citrus zest and subtle stone fruit framed by old oak. Refreshing chalky grip on the finish. Drink 2018-2026 For reviews and scores of more than 900 wines from this 2016 Burgundy en primeur campaign, plus the latest prices and stocksists, see



MARQUÉS DE RISCAL Impeccable contemporary quality founded on old know-how roots


ounded in the mid-18th Century, Marqués de Riscal is steeped in tradition, being one of the proudest and oldest wineries in Spain, yet it has never rested on its laurels, always keeping an eagle eye on the future; an outlook arguably exemplified no better than its stunning, Frank Gehry-designed winery - a ground-breaker of its time – and it is also

being responsible, in 1995, for the introduction of the very first grapesorting table in Rioja. ‘For Marqués de Riscal, the vine is one of the main keys in achieving unique, fine quality wines with a high degree of typicity,’ says its President Alejandro Aznar. ‘This is not something that we are doing just now, it’s something we have always done: making quality wines.’ Riscal keeps pushing onwards and upwards, encapsulated by its new, limited edition rosé (only around 5.000 bottles are produced each year) which is a blend of old, ungrafted Garnacha and Tempranillo, produced from the natural, first bleed of free-run must from the grapes soon after they are placed in tank. Rosé has long since been seen a wine just for spring and summer, but today it’s a wine for all seasons, and this example takes it to another level. ‘We have chosen healthy, ungrafted vines over 80 years old, planted on sandy, gravelly terraces high above the River Duero valley in Left: Garnacha vine from Riscal’s Finca Emérito, Villaester

Toro,’ says Luis Hurtado de Amézaga, Technical Manager of Marqués de Riscal’s property in Rueda where this wine is crafted. ‘The idea is to make a much more serious version of a rosé wine and that is why we are using one of our best vineyards.’ ’These sandy soils helped protect this land from phylloxera, but also assist in allowing the water to drain away and allow us to cultivate the vines following organic methods. The vines are bush vines and the yields are low and are always picked by hand.’

‘This is not something that we are doing just now, it’s something we have always done: making quality wines’ ‘The important thing is to know the type of wine you want to make and then find the ideal raw material, ‘says Aznar. ‘And that’s what has happened with Marqués de Riscal Viñas Viejas rosé: the search for the land and the vines which could bring the greatest character to the wine and highlight the essence of the Garnacha and Tempranillo varieties.’ ‘The Garnacha and Tempranillo varieties combine perfectly to produce a fresh, round mouth-feel,’ says Hurtado de Amézaga. ‘The Garnacha brings freshness, good acidity, floral notes and low colour


Tempranillo-Tinta de Toro vine from Riscal’s Finca Calabucha, Villaester

intensity. The Tempranillo provides body and structure, as well as red-berry fruit and greater depth of colour. The result is an “a-typical” rosé wine, with rare length and great complexity on the palate.’ In an intriguing twist, after the wine is fermented, fine lees from Sauvignon Blanc – one of the hallmarks of Rueda are added. ‘We have taken advantage of our Rueda winery to give this wine distinctive ageing,’ says Hurtado de Amézaga. ‘This lees ageing brings greater character to the wine; making it creamier, improving its structure on the palate and simply giving it more personality. The Garnacha and Tempranillo combine perfectly to produce a fresh, round

Marqués de Riscal Viñas Viejas, limited edition

mouth-feel, but with the fruit aspects heightened by those few months in contact with the Sauvignon Blanc lees; an innovative approach in the production of a rosé.’ Marqués de Riscal says that Viñas Viejas is a wine which contains the purest essence of the Garnacha and Tempranillo varieties, and in producing it has sought to look back, recall its winemaking tradition but at the same time make a state-of-the-art wine; impeccably representing its ongoing virtues and values. ‘Make no mistake,’ states Hurtado de Amézaga. ‘The fruit in this wine is good enough to make a great red wine, but we’ve used it to make a rosé!’

Producer profile

Gravner Not one for doing things in half-measures, Joško Gravner’s methods inspire extremes of praise and scepticism alike. Tom Cannavan visits Italy’s far northeast to meet this enigmatic talisman of the biodynamics movement

Photographs: Alvise Barsanti; M. Frullani

MANY THINGS SEEM to have informed Joško Gravner’s decision, or decisions, to radically change his winemaking direction over the years. Those meant risking everything: his reputation, his thriving business, perhaps even his friends. Today, Gravner is one of the most revered cult names of Italian winemaking, following a rigorous natural winemaking philosophy. The wine world – not just Italy – pays attention to what he does, and many follow his example. But it was not always thus. By the 1970s, the young Gravner had joined his family business in Oslavia, an Italian border town a stone’s throw from Slovenia, with vineyards running across that invisible dividing line. Full of confidence, he ignored advice to ‘do a little and do it well’, and instead set out to revolutionise the cellars and take more technical control of the winemaking. Stainless steel tanks replaced the old casks, French oak barriques were installed, and an array of modern equipment was purchased.

32 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

And it worked. Soon his fragrant, fruity and delicate wines were being awarded the ultimate accolade of tre bicchieri from Italy’s wine bible Gambero Rosso. By the 1980s Gravner was flying high as the flagship producer of the area.

Radical shift

Below: Gravner’s Runk vineyard on the Italian side of the family estate

But a business trip to California in the late 1980s saw a road to Damascus moment: tasting many highly rated wines, he realised they ‘did nothing for him emotionally’, says his daughter Mateja. He suddenly understood the same could be said of his own wines: they had become too ‘international’. ‘Little by little I started to get rid of all the equipment,’ he says. Out went the shiny new toys, and back in came large oak casks and a mechanical basket press. Gravner’s simplification of his winemaking effectively reversed 20 years of modernisation, and it is a path he has followed with absolute conviction since. The second stopping point on his road to Damascus came in 1996, when hail destroyed 95% of his Ribolla crop, indigenous to the area and Gravner’s great love. With the meagre remaining harvest he decided to experiment, macerating his Ribolla with long skin contact and fermenting using only ambient yeasts. The success of the experiment (‘The wine was a revelation,’ says Gravner) was not recognised by all. Now, Gambero Rosso’s headline was a different one, which he recalls with a rueful smile: ‘Joško Gravner has gone crazy – please come back Joško.’ If not regarded as ‘crazy’ by all, many viewed his change of direction with doubt, suspicion and, I suspect, fear that the Friuli apple cart was being so decisively overturned. It was a shock for followers of the estate, with more than half of his overseas distributors cancelling their ➢


Gravner at a glance Founded 1901 Location Oslavia, in Friuli; vineyards in Italian Collio and Slovenian Brda Under vine 18ha Vineyards Runk in Italy; Hum and Dedno in Slovenia Viticulture Farmed organically and based on lunar calendar Vinification All fermentation in amphorae, with wild yeasts and no temperature control. All wines have skin contact maceration of about six months. Ribolla bottled after an extra six years in large casks. Riserva released after extra four years in cask and six years in bottle. Rosso released after extra five years in cask and five years in bottle

D E C A N T E R • F E B R U A R Y 2018 | 33

orders in the wake of the Gambero Rosso article. That, points out Gravener, was without having tasted the wines. Gravner is a quiet, seemingly reserved character, a combination of humble farmer in his working clothes and muddy boots, and Jesuit scholar with a keen intelligence shining behind his eyes. Clearly, he is both deeply thoughtful and stubbornly single-minded. As customers slowly began to appreciate his new amber-coloured wines, he extended his maceration for longer and delved deeper into the oldest wine production methods, culminating in a trip to Georgia in 2000.

New obsessions The traditional use of amphorae, or qvevri, buried underground became his next obsession. By 2001, an initial batch of 11 of these large, handmade, earthenware vessels

made the perilous overland trip from Georgia to northern Italy, and a whole new phase of the Gravner story began. The use of amphorae and other clay or cement pots to ferment and age wines has trended dramatically over the past 10 years or so: it has reached the point where it is rare to visit a wine cellar without at least one concrete egg or amphora standing alongside the steel tanks and barrels. The vast majority of these are ‘experimental’, or used to make one small, idiosyncratic cuvée to sit within a much larger portfolio. But for Gravner it was different: by 2005 the entire production, white and red, was being made in amphora. Had Gravner finally found peace? Had his winemaking input been reduced enough, to its most fundamental conclusion with organic farming, minimum use of sulphur, wild yeasts, no temperature control and whole-berry

Above: Gravner converted his entire production to clay amphorae by 2005

Gravner – a timeline 1996 Extensive hail damage leads to experimental treatment of Ribolla

1999 All barriques removed from cellar

1997 1970


Joško Gravner joins the family business

Gravner visits California and tastes 1,000 ‘disappointing’ wines

3 4 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

First vintage released of skin-macerated Ribolla


‘Gravner did not create the “natural wine” movement on his own, but he is a role

Photographs: Alvise Barsanti(4); Herbert Lehmann/Cephas

model for it’ maceration? It seems not. In 2012 came another radical decision, another bombshell: everything in his vineyards was grubbed up except the indigenous Ribolla for white wines and Pignolo for red wines. Over the years fans had loved his Breg Bianco, a blend of Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay; but from 2012, it was no more. Gravner professes to speak no English, and at times I suspect his boredom threshold for the translated questions and answers of the visiting journalist is set pretty low. During a visit to his newest vineyard in Dedno, Slovenia, he wanders off among the baby vines, plucking a leaf here, straightening a post there, leaving his guests in the capable hands of his daughters Jana and Mateja. At the age of 65, he just wants to get on with it. This air of detachment should not fool you. Gravner doesn’t miss a trick and is utterly engaged with his wines and his beliefs. Tasting the Chardonnay 1992, I comment on how impressive it is at 25 years old. ‘I made good wine, even before amphora,’ he deadpans, dismissing it as worthy, but a relic of the past. Making wines with long skin contact is an ancient tradition in this Collio and Brda region that straddles Italy and Slovenia respectively. To an extent Gravner is reviving local tradition, and his example has been followed by many producers on both sides of the border. But his influence is evident much further

afield, even in countries with no such history, from California to Australia. He did not create the ‘natural wine’ movement on his own, but he is a role model for it. I have racked my brains to think of any other winery outside Georgia that has switched 100% of its production to skincontact wines in amphora. Several are doing far more than ‘playing’ with a vessel or two – José de Sousa in the Alentejo, COS in Sicily, Foradori in Trentino – but no other significant estate has so resolutely committed to these ancient methods. Something else must drive Gravner beyond issues of authenticity and quality, and on my visit a few clues emerged.

Unerring vision Below: the Gravner winery, where daughters Mateja and Jana work alongside their father Joško




Gravner visits Georgia

First amphora imported from Georgia

All production has been moved to amphora

Having eaten delicious but simple meals of soup, cheese and homemade salami at the family home, I was entertained one evening at the Michelin-starred La Subida, but Gravner did not join us. Daughter Mateja explained that in the mid-1990s, while carrying out the heavy work to build the terraces and ➢



All non-native vines grubbed up, leaving only Ribolla and Pignolo

After more than a decade of preparation, new vineyards in Slovenia are planted

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 35

prepare the ground for their new vineyards in Slovenia, Gravner suffered a serious fall. He insisted that he didn’t need to go to hospital, but overnight things took a dramatic turn and he needed emergency surgery for extensive internal injuries. This near-death moment left his digestive system chronically fragile. Today he is extremely careful about what he eats and drinks, is a passionate advocate for organic produce, and can only tolerate simple foods. Gravner farms organically and works strictly according to the phases of the moon, following the calendar of biodynamics guru Maria Thun. Yet, even though simplicity and nature are at the heart of his philosophy, his wines are not certified organic, and he doesn’t follow all aspects of the biodynamic system. His suspicion that certification is mostly to do with marketing is on record, but another very personal and poignant part of the story is revealed by Mateja: her brother, Miha, began working with their father in the early 2000s, the plan being that he’d take over the estate one day. He was working towards full biodynamic production when, in 2009, he was killed in a motorcycle accident. ‘My father did not have the heart to continue – this was Miha’s project,’ she tells me. Their sister Jana is now in charge of vineyards, and I’m told the topic is once again under discussion.

Photograph: Herbert Lehmann/Cephas


Above: Gravner now focuses on just two native varieites, Ribolla and Pignolo

Love them or hate them, Gravner’s wines are remarkable. His standard Ribolla, for example, an amber wine, is macerated with skins for six months or more and aged for six or seven years before bottling. A Riserva 2003 has only just been introduced to the market after 14 years – and bottled only in magnum. A tiny production of sweet Ribolla named 8.9.10 is made from botrytis grapes from those three vintages, bottled only in 2015. Visionary? Philosopher? Iconoclast? Yes to all, but Gravner has something profound to say and is part of nobody’s movement or bandwagon. He is an original thinker. D

Tom Cannavan is a widely published and awarded wine writer, journalist and broadcaster, and owner of www.

The Gravner difference: six of the best to try Gravner, Riserva Ribolla, Collio 1998 96

Gravner, Breg Bianco, Venezia Giulia 2008 93

Only 500 bottles produced from some of the oldest vines, magnums only, bottled in 2010. Some botrytis notes and a beautiful vinous nose, a touch of coffee and meat stock. The sublime texture and limpid clarity of the wine is just stunning. Drink 2018-2025 Alcohol 13.5%

£52 Hedonism, Raeburn Glowing amber/gold colour. So ripe, boasting notes of dried apricot and tobacco, sweet earth and a touch of spice. Dry with chewy density on the palate, the high tones of lemon rind and lime acidity against the soft, smoky tobacco is pure and long, with lots of salinity on the finish. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 15%

Gravner, Ribolla, Venezia Giulia 2007 94 £52 Fine & Rare, Hedonism, Raeburn

Gravner, Breg Bianco, Collio 1998 93 £70 Christopher Keiller, Raeburn

Immediately involving, with a slightly purer, less botrytised character than the 2008. Complex phenolic characters with apricot and orange, marmalade-like quality of bittersweetness. Wrapped in more complex earth and salt flavours and spices too. Drink 2018-2035 Alc 13.5%

Pre-amphora period, made in big barrels with seven days of skin contact. Gorgeous nose, with honey and sesame seed, a definite sense of sweetness and the latent vibrancy of the fruit – the Sauvignon and Riesling – is still discernible in the juicy citrus to finish. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13%

£200 (150cl) Christopher Keiller, Raeburn

36 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Gravner, Ribolla, Venezia Giulia 2008 93 £54 Christopher Keiller, Raeburn The nose shows orange peel and spices, nuttiness and fragrant tobacco. The palate has huge presence: a touch of toffee and sour lemon, the bitter character so grippy and fascinating, a touch of botrytis evident, finishing with spicy intensity. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14.5%

Gravner, Breg Rosso, Venezia Giulia 2004 94 £94 Christopher Keiller, Raeburn 100% Pignolo, and amazingly youthful for a 12-year-old wine. Inky, dark and meaty, though with a fine, high note to the aromatics of herbs and flowers. Made in big, open barrels, the fruit has cherry and ripe red plum, stalky acidity; grip powers the finish. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 13.5%

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Taking the plunge City trader, doctor, hobbyist, lifelong dreamer: the winemaking bug can strike anyone, whether or not they have an existing connection to the industry. Anne Krebiehl MW meets career-changers and risk-takers around the world NOT EVERYONE IS born into a life of wine. Yet for many, making wine is living the dream. Some fulfil their dream once they have made enough money in another business: they buy land or a winery and hire a winemaker. But we sought out those who have done it the hard way, who were not exceptionally rich, who were nowhere near retirement, who turned their lives around completely. They risked it all in order to make wine; they made sacrifices and struggled through. They are living proof that change is possible. Each is as different as they come – the only thing they all have in common is energy, imagination and an appetite for risk and hard work. Meet our winemaking renegades.

Ray Nadeson Lethbridge Wines, Victoria, Australia Ray Nadeson, 52, has a PhD in neuroscience. ‘I spent 10 years applying research on how we can reduce pain in humans,’ he explains. ‘And I was pretty good at what I did – but I didn’t want to be defined by that. ‘All my life I’ve been outdoorsy and somehow I ended up entrenched in a hospital. But I also like being outside, doing things with

‘It was a huge decision. You leave a job that is secure and well-paid to do something you have no track record in at all’ Ray Nadeson

my hands and I really like working with different people. Being a farmer I need to work with everyone.’ It’s the same story for his wife Maree Collis, who has a PhD in chemistry. ‘Somehow or other Maree and I decided to have a go. We decided to approach it as a research project,’ Nadeson remembers. Tasting countless wines had piqued his interest. ‘Why wine? Because wine allows you to use science and have an artistic element, and it allows you to use your hands and to farm. It unites science, nature and philosophy. But I wasn’t going to be a doctor one moment and then a winemaker, with no transition, so my wife and I got a degree in winemaking [while continuing to work]. Not because you need it to make wine, you don’t, but we wanted to have street cred.’ Nadeson continued in his day job for eight years while they were establishing the winery. ‘I wanted to do every aspect of what it takes, and the last thing I wanted was to employ a winemaker. But I couldn’t do both jobs. So 14 years ago I decided to become a full-time winemaker. It was a huge decision. You leave a job that is secure and well-paid to do something you have no track record in at all. ➢ Left: the winery at Lethbridge, and wines (above) Right: former scientists Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson in the barrel room at Lethbridge Wines

38 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R


D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 39

My mum was horrified, she could not believe I would give up a prestigious job and become a farmer. Now she loves it,’ he says. But Nadeson is honest: ‘Lethbridge didn’t make any money for years. I had to make contract wine, consult and do other things to smooth out the cash flow. We didn’t come into the business with a whole heap of money. But even though we didn’t make a lot, we existed.’

Photographs: Johnny C Y Lam(2)

Vicki Samaras and Jonas Newman Hinterland Wine Company, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada Vicki Samaras and Jonas Newman are risktakers and pioneers in Prince Edward County, both coming to the same decision to get into wine before they even met. Newman was a maître d’ at a Toronto restaurant and Samaras worked in the pharmaceutical industry. They were both 27 and each had dreams of owning a vineyard. Upon meeting they bought land together. ‘We started dating and built a romantic relationship while we built our farm, much to the chagrin of our parents – we’re now married with children and it seems to have worked out fine,’ says Samaras. They financed this by doing up Toronto properties before selling them and trading up. They also got a state-backed agricultural loan and planted their first 3.5ha of vines in 2004. Due to the climate, they decided to make sparkling wine. ‘We wanted to make wine that was good every year, because we have to pay our bills. We had that pressure on us, in an unproven wine region,’ Samaras emphasises. Newman continued his restaurant job in Toronto until 2007 and Samaras left hers in 2010, when they released their first wine. ‘By then we had a couple of kids as well, and we were renovating an old dairy barn,’ Newman says. This is now their winery. ‘We didn’t really know how to farm or to change oil on a tractor,’ confesses Newman. ‘Conceptually we understood it, but practically we had no idea what we were doing. Thankfully we were young enough to take the risk.’ Samaras agrees: ‘We really believe strongly in due diligence. It was risky, but I did my research. We really wanted to have autonomy and we had a tiny, tiny budget,’ she adds, ‘but I don’t know how we did it.’ They acknowledge 2008 as their crisis: a poor, rainy harvest, no money to hire help and a critically ill child. ‘But we got through it,’ says Samaras. Neither of them expected that it was going to be so hard to sell wine. But, she says: ‘We both wanted it and we are both equally committed.’ Newman sums it up: ‘I get up every morning and I like going to work.’ 4 0 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Above: Jonas Newman and Vicki Samaras (top) and their barrel room at Hinterland Wine Company

Jamie Kutch Kutch Wines, Sonoma, California, USA Jamie Kutch is toying with his secateurs as he explains: ‘I was always a hobbyist; as a child, in college. I guess wine was a hobby while working in finance. I was a Nasdaq trader for Merrill Lynch, with three computer screens


Above: vines catch the morning sun at Kutch vineyards in Sonoma

‘I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime’ Jamie Kutch

and two telephones. I quickly learned that it didn’t make me happy. But I don’t think I would have succeeded had I not gone to Wall Street first and seen what you become with just the drive to make more money. Now I’m making a tangible product. Now I get a text message on Christmas from a customer saying “I’m enjoying this with my family”. That’s a massive reward – more so than making 20 grand to boost Merrill Lynch’s earnings.’ It was his hobby that led to the life-changing telephone conversation with a Californian winemaker who promised to lend a hand. ‘When I hung up the phone I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime.’ Three months later he went west, despite never having worked in farming or winemaking. ‘I had no family here, no friends, got on a plane with one suitcase. I’d been dating a woman for a long time and asked if she would join me. She came out six months later.’ Kristen is now his wife. ‘My friends still working on Wall Street live in multi-million-dollar homes; we rent. They drive Ferraris, I’ve got a Honda. But the experiences I have are richer. I was in the vineyards three hours ago and I couldn’t even describe the feeling you get when you look out onto the Pacific from 900 metres up, with redwoods all around you. That is priceless. I feel blessed and fortunate.’ Kutch made the decision when he was 30. Now he is 43 and says the work ‘is hard on your body’. He admits he thought ‘it would be easier than it is’, and he still has to ‘work very hard to sell 3,000 cases of wine’, but he never regretted his decision for a second. ‘When you trade stocks every day, you always weigh risks versus rewards. In wine, the risk seemed worth the reward.’

Corrado Dottori

Above: Kutch wines Left: Jamie Kutch keeps a close eye on his crop during harvest time at Kutch Wines

La Distesa, Cupramontana, Marche, Italy ‘I was trading in stocks,’ says Corrado Dottori, but immediately adds that he was never a high-ranking employee. He grew up in Milan where he took an economics degree and then worked in finance. His father’s family had owned vineyards in Marche since 1935 but, like many of his generation, they sought a more sophisticated life in the city. All of the land was leased to farmers, but they slowly started retiring and Dottori either had to find someone to look after the land or sell it. This was in 2000 when he was 28, with ‘memories of endless summers as kids, running in the fields’. His girlfriend Valeria, now his wife, was happy to join him. ‘It was what we needed,’ he recalls. ‘Coming from the city was like being free for the first time.’ ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2 018 | 41

Photograph: Paula Prandini

Below: Corrado Dottori with his wife Valeria in their Marche vineyards


The property he moved to was run down – he had just one hectare of vines, so he and Valeria opened a B&B, which was their only income stream for a while. But money did not bother him. ‘Of course you have to change your lifestyle,’ he recalls, noting that living in the country is far cheaper than in the city. ‘Even so, the first four or five years were very hard.’ He now owns 7ha of vines and also grows olives and wheat for a local pasta cooperative. Initially it was difficult to explain what seemed like a regressive move to his family, who had done so much to forge international careers. ‘Probably my father understood my dream,’ Dottori feels. Converting to organic and then biodynamic viticulture in the early 2000s was his biggest challenge. ‘I was doing something very complex but without knowledge,’ he says, noting that he never studied agronomy. ‘It was very hard.’ His only regret is not planting more vines at the beginning, due to lack of funds. ‘If I had, I would have more mature vines now.’ He says that ‘there is no point of contact’ between his former career and now, and his only advice to aspiring career-changers is: ‘Don’t be scared of hard work.’

Photograph: Paula Prandini; Friedrich Spitzbart Ges.m.b.H.

Urban Kaufmann Weingut Kaufmann, Hattenheim, Rheingau, Germany The Rhine ferry that Urban Kaufmann took every day to get to work was ‘the only thing that still had structure’, he recalls. This tongue-tied former cheesemaker developed his fascination with wine early, at his family’s table. This crystallised into a dream when he attended his first proper tasting at age 25. Becoming a cheesemaker, he says, was not an unusual choice of profession in rural Switzerland. In his former life he had it made: he ran a successful cheese dairy making Appenzeller. ‘It was a good existence; I was at the top. I easily could have carried on, but that inner voice became louder and louder. I figured I still had a horizon of 20 years to make something happen.’ Moonlighting throughout 2012 in a Swiss winery clinched it: he decided to buy a wine estate. There were ‘a thousand reasons’ not to do it, but he could not let go of his dream. ‘Giving up something existing and well-run for the big unknown, leaving your own country…’ he starts but trails off, reliving the enormity of the decision he took as a 41-year-old. Finding an estate that was both affordable and a going concern was a challenge. But looking for property first in Italy, then in Austria and Germany, he found love instead:

‘I was at the top. I easily could have carried on, but that inner voice became louder and louder’ Urban Kaufmann

meeting Eva Raps, then manager of the German VDP association, was pure luck as she had harboured the same dream. Through her he learned of a Rheingau estate for sale in 2013. Kaufmann thus tied up all his Swiss affairs and moved his entire life to the Rheingau to make Riesling and Pinot Noir. Getting to grips with the different aspects of a working winery was hard. ‘The chaos was perfect,’ Kaufmann says. This is when he mentions the ferry. Raps grappled with admin while Kaufmann worked in the cellar. Oenology itself did not faze him, nor did the prospect of hard work. ‘Whether it’s lactic acid bacteria or wine yeast, microbiology is much the same,’ he says. Are there any regrets? ‘No. Once the decision was made, there was only one way: forward.’

Alie Shaper

Below: former cheesemaker Urban Kaufmann with Eva Raps in the Rheingau

Brooklyn Oenology, Long Island, New York, US ‘Born of Serendipity Courage Persistence’ proclaims the label on Alie Shaper’s ‘As If’ series of wines. She has an engineering degree and comes from a family of engineers. ‘Because I was good at maths and sciences, I assumed that’s what I would end up doing.’ The assumption led her to Silicon Valley in 1996, into the aerospace industry. ‘After four years I burnt out, dropped everything and returned east.’ ➢

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 43


Casting about for what to do, Shaper answered an ad for tasting room staff at a Hudson Valley winery, which morphed into working in a New York City tasting room. ‘That’s where the bug bit hard. I took WSET classes,’ she says. She continued working with her father in the family manufacturing business, but dedicated evenings and weekends to wine. Soon that was not enough: a full-time job as wine distributor followed. ‘The hardest thing was telling my father I wouldn’t work for him anymore,’ Shaper says. ‘Then it struck me like a lightning bolt, wandering around Brooklyn one Sunday afternoon: I could start a winery here. There were so many old warehouses, there were glassblowers, parachute makers, you name it. It was like this rebirth of making in Brooklyn. You don’t have to own land to own a winery. I just kept turning it over in my head. How would I accomplish this? A year later I quit my distributing job, but there was one missing piece: I had never worked in production.’ So in 2006, when she was 33, she did some work at a custom-crush facility on Long Island; the experience was invaluable. Shaper made her first two custom blends and has made her wines there ever since. ‘Every case we sell, we

Right: Alie Shaper makes her Brooklyn Oenolgy wines on Long Island

‘Something had to burst in order for something new to bloom’ Alie Shaper

have to fight for. I didn’t expect that,’ she acknowledges, but adds: ‘Something had to burst in order for something new to bloom. That transition can be really hard. It tests your resolve, your persistence and your creativity. You bear a lot of responsibility, but at the end the reward is huge, because it’s something you created yourself.’ D Anne Krebiehl MW is a freelance wine writer, educator, consultant and judge

Risk-takers and career-changers: a taste of success Hinterland, Sacrament Méthode Traditionelle, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada 2011 92

Photograph: David Benthal Photography

N/A UK Yeasty hints of freshly baked brioche appear first on this lovely sparkling blend of half Pinot Noir, half Chardonnay. Honey notes play on the dry, graceful palate, supported by super-fine, creamy fizz. Provides pleasure and sophisticated refreshment. Drink 2018-2030 Alcohol 12%

La Distesa, Gli Eremi, Marche, Italy 2015 93 £33 Noble Fine Liquor Notes of salty, savoury yeast blend with bruised apples on the nose of this concentrated, single-vineyard Verdicchio. The dry saltiness attains an almost soy-like spice on the palate and draws you in. This is slightly funky but oh-so earthy, visceral and moreish. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%

Lethbridge, Between Five Bells, Australia 2015 92 £24 Caviste Hazelnut and creamy lime on the nose of this unusual blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, bottled as a ‘Wine of Australia’. The palate adds lemony brightness to this richly textured, rounded wine. A baby right now, needs to evolve but the promise is of a smooth, refreshing and utterly gastronomic wine. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 13.6%

Kaufmann, Tell Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany 2015 93 N/A UK A blend of the best tanks of grapes from classified sites, this Riesling has vividly ripe citrus flavours. Amalfi lemon plays with green apples on a taut body with precise acidity. Concentration, thrill, utter freshness and purity. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 12.5%

4 4 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Brooklyn Oenology, As If Serendipity, North Fork of Long Island, New York State, US 2014 91 N/A UK www.brooklynoenology. com

Summer blossom and orange peel create an aromatic opening on this blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. The slender body is fresh and full-flavoured with a wonderfully intense finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.7%

Kutch, Bohan Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California, US 2016 93 £59 Roberson Fragrant, tangy Morello cherry fruit pervades both the nose and palate. Lightness, bright freshness and taut structure are the hallmarks of this evocative, slender and wonderfully wild take on Pinot Noir. The antithesis of what you might expect from California. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 11.3%




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Masters of Spumante Asti and Prosecco to make you sit up


magine you’re standing in a winery. Around you on all sides rise steep hills covered in vines, and the vineyards are divided into small parcels patched on to the slopes. This is a region, you might infer, of small-scale growers devoted to their craft, and of a winemaker who buys their best grapes and uses the best of modern technology to express their heritage. The winery is at Santo Stefano Belbo, and it belongs to Martini & Rossi. Martini is the number one global Italian sparkling wine brand, sold in 100 countries worldwide, but its roots are here, in the vineyards. Martini’s Asti DOCG comes from this pale soil and bright sunshine; its Prosecco is made at its historical headquarters in Pessione, where a museum of wine and of Martini’s history rubs shoulders with the stainless steel of contemporary winemaking. Martini has been making sparkling wine here since 1863, and it embodies the experience of generations of winemakers. These – Asti and Prosecco – are Martini’s two main sparkling wine ranges. They’re different, of course – Prosecco is fresh, dry, gently fruity; Asti sweeter, great with chocolate or as an aperitif – but they’re complementary. Discovering one will lead you to discover the other. They’re also thoroughly Italian. Martini was involved early on with Federico

Martinotti, who started the Italian sparkling wine revolution with the winemaking method that bears his name, a method that enables Martini to bottle wines that express all the vibrant freshness you want for a celebration or just a casual get-together with friends. Italian Spumante has been made since the 1850s: it has a long history in these hills. The Martinotti method, with its emphasis on freshness and lightness, encouraged winemakers in the Veneto and Friuli to use their native Glera grapes for spumante; this is how Prosecco was born. So let’s take a look in more detail. Prosecco is everybody’s favourite. The grapes are Glera, plus, in Martini Prosecco, a little Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for extra roundness. There’s that lovely pear note

that is characteristic of good Prosecco, in a wine of perfect balance. It’s a great aperitif, but it will go with sushi and sashimi, pasta or chicken, too. There’s more Chardonnay, again blended with Glera, in Martini Brut: intense, slightly drier, with good acidity. Open a bottle whenever you meet up with friends. Sometimes lovers of Martini Prosecco want something extra-special, and so Martini has, after many years of work to get it just right, launched Collezione Speciale, in a beautiful, delicately sparkling bottle that perfectly expresses the subtlety and finesse of the wine. There are floral notes here, and hints of green apple and lime, aromatic with notes of herbs and fresh fruit. It’s 100% Glera grapes, and it will match perfectly with such dishes as mozzarella and tomatoes, grilled vegetables or seafood. Sushi, sashimi and carpaccio are good, too. How did Collezione Speciale begin? With the growers, naturally. They’re known as the Conferenti, and there are 230 of them, most of whom have been working with Martini for decades. Head winemaker Livio Prandi, whose father and grandfather worked at Martini, and his predecessor, Franco Brezza, decided to make wines that would set a new standard in Prosecco and Asti – because yes, there’s

an Asti Collezione Speciale, as well. For Prosecco Collezione Speciale only the very best grapes are selected from the Veneto region, from vineyards that are cossetted throughout the year. As with all Prosecco, the winemaking is in two stages. First the juice is fermented into base wine; then the base wine is fermented again, with an addition of yeast, to produce a wine with fine bubbles and silky texture. The Asti range, from those hills where we first arrived, has as its benchmark the sweet, fresh, grapey and herbal Martini Asti: think of the flavours of melon, peach and sage. It’s made from 100% Moscato Bianco grapes, and it’s very good with chocolate cake. Asti Collezione Speciale takes the very best of those grapes, from vines growing

above 150m altitude to ensure the best exposure to the sun. The grapes are handpicked into small baskets and pressed close to the vineyards, in Santo Stefano Belbo. The wine has extra elegance, extra poise, and flavours of elderflower and citrus, rosemary and green tea. It’s meant to be special, and it is. There are times, though, when what you really want is rosé. Here Martini’s innovative winemakers have come to your rescue with two vibrant pink sparklers: Martini Rosé Extra Dry and Martini Rosé Demi-Sec. The first is the drier, with flavours of red fruits and notes of wild roses and strawberries. It’s great with prawns or Mediterranean food. Martini Rosé Demi-Sec is more floral, richer and rounder, with

raspberry and orange zest hints. Drink it as an aperitif (don’t be afraid to put some ice in your glass) and try it with summer picnics or with Mediterranean vegetable dishes at a winter meal. What are the grapes? That’s where the winemakers have been so inventive. The Extra Dry is made from Riesling Italico, Chardonnay, Glera and Nebbiolo – Nebbiolo being, of course, where the colour comes from. The Demi-Sec is Moscato, Glera, and Brachetto, this being a vibrant Italian red grape with floral flavours and just enough colour to give the wine its brilliant pink colour. Martini’s sparkling wines exude their Italian heritage and the story of their vineyards, but what they’re really about, though, is connecting with other people. Enjoy!

The rise of Carignan A once-scorned Mediterranean grape is being reborn as a fine wine, with classy cuvĂŠes emerging from Spain and France, discovers Miquel Hudin


AS A WINE drinker, to discover (or perhaps rediscover) Carignan is to happen upon a vinous jewel. The fine wines now being produced from this grape are usually the single-vineyard top cuvées in a winery’s portfolio. These are often expensive as a result, but they will also offer a new and exciting experience for anyone looking to broaden their drinking horizons. Carignan is a name borrowed from French, but, depending upon your country of origin, you may know it as Bovale di Spagna, Cariñena, Carinyena, Mazuelo, Samsó or another synonym. The variety is actually Spanish in origin with its still-undetermined crossing having happened somewhere in the lower part of Aragón in Spain’s northeast, and possibly near the town of Cariñena, resulting in it taking the name. And while there are blanc and gris mutations, it’s the red variant of the grape that dominates plantings the world over.

Carignan spread overland from its point of conception, heading west to Rioja in Spain and then further northeast to the Côte d’Azur in France. It was then taken to Chile, Italy, Morocco, Israel and California, to name a few of its adopted homes. Plantings were expansive in the post-phylloxera period as Carignan was loved for what is actually its worst quality: over-production. Peasants of the past century planted it not on the premise of crafting fine wine, but because in the right conditions it could produce up to an enormous, though intensely bland 200hl/ha. Throughout the 20th century, this was the commercial orientation of Carignan, and the vast bulk of the world’s supply was planted in Languedoc-Roussillon: the region of southern France that became synonymous with the European ‘wine lake’. In response, successive vine-pull schemes or replanting with ‘improving varieties’ (Grenache, Syrah and others) were enacted by a concerned EU. But in sparse pockets with poor soils and forgotten vines, a massive rethink of the grape was underway, from the top of Languedoc and Roussillon in France down to the bottom of Catalonia in Spain. In these regions, the past two decades have shown that despite the name originating in Aragón (where Grenache is now dominant) its spiritual home lies along this swathe of Mediterranean appellations. Above: Carignan is thriving again in the Languedoc after falling victim to EU replanting schemes

All in the handling Carignan is a tedious grape to grow. Given its large, tight clusters and extremely long maturation cycle, it’s very prone to powdery ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 49

Photograph: Per Karlsson - Stock Photo

Historical rise

Above: Carignan vines need rocky soils and low rainfall to thrive

‘While thousands of hectares exist, it’s the bush-trained old vines that are proving most exciting’

Above: Mas Martinet in Priorat, which is one of the Catalan wineries experimenting with Carignan in clay amphorae 50 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Above: punching down the cap to avoid reduction during fermentation at Château Champ des Soeurs his alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks, which can be the quickest way to end up with a reductive Carignan (that telltale smell of struck match) due to the juice not being able to breathe, but he says that it’s easy to deal with: ‘You just manage pump-overs as needed by moving the reductive part of the batch to mix with the oxidative at the top.’ While many Catalan producers use regular pump-overs, there is also a trend of open-top barrels, as well as experimentation with clay amphorae, as at Mas Martinet in Priorat. Wineries with very concentrated fruit, such as Vall Llach, also use concrete (tanks or eggs). While not carrying out the intense scientific analysis of the French, Catalan producers have managed the grape very well to the point that varietal Carignans are often found in the top-level DOs including Priorat, Montsant, Empordà and Terra Alta. This is a marked contrast to France, where 100% Carignans must be sold under obscure regional IGPs or even the blossoming Vin de France category. There are those who favour the latter option, such as Jon Bowen of Domaine Ste Croix: ‘It allows you to have a conversation.’

Photograph: Mick Rock/Cephas

mildew and bunch rot. It also needs poor, rocky soils and low rainfall to curb yields and increase its flavour concentration. While thousands of hectares exist, it’s the bushtrained old vines that are proving most exciting, as they give miserly yields of 1kg (even 300g) per vine of intensely flavoured grapes. France has invested the most time and learning into understanding the grape. In Gruissan and Embres-et-Castelmaure, INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research) has two vineyard conservatories that hold 233 cuttings taken from vineyards across the country. Overseen by Didier Viguier, they observe the cultivation of Carignan and work on eradicating vine viruses that are often rampant in older vineyards. In both Languedoc and Roussillon, there is a tendency to pick Carignan early. Harvests in the third week of September aren’t unheard of and the reasoning is that this preserves flavour, though it seems the thinking is based upon Carignan reaching ideal sugar levels quickly during maturation. Unlike Grenache however, it doesn’t skyrocket in terms of potential alcohol and will stay below 15% in a ‘normal’ vintage, even if allowed to ripen longer. With Carignan originating very near Catalonia, the winemakers there have been accustomed to it for centuries. The lengthy ripening avoided by the French is embraced by the Catalans and continues to be common, running into October or even early November for certain years and parcels. This makes for two very different profiles of the grape. When aiming for a proper balance of flavours, most French winemakers find that nonintervention is not an option when working with Carignan. Laurent Maynadier of Château Champ des Soeurs will do all


Time to shine Carignan is known for developing a wealth of tannins, acidity and colour, so it has typically been used as an excellent blending partner for Grenache, which can be lacking in these qualities. If not made with care, however, it can also be prone to rampant reduction during vinification. So, while a beautiful grape on its own, the wine must still be made carefully. At their best, whether north or south of the Pyrenees, Carignan wines will usually display dark cherry fruit, blueberries, violet and other floral aromas along with notes of orange peel, black liquorice and cocoa. On the palate, the wines are very full-bodied with tannins that have a fine, dusty aspect and an acidity that presents a fresh and lively wine with excellent potential for ageing. It’s delicious paired with roast meats, duck and earthy root vegetables, but can overwhelm or potentially clash with strong cheeses. The past 15 years of Carignan’s evolution haven’t come about by accident as a new generation has either opened new cellars or taken over from their parents. They’ve studied oenology instead of just inheriting the knowledge from their forefathers and are able to graft modern winemaking onto the old

Above: Elizabeth and Jon Bowen from Domaine Ste Croix

Miquel Hudin is a wine writer based in Catalonia. He won Fortnum & Mason’s Best Drink Writer award for 2017

methods, which has in turn thrust this grape upon the world stage. Just a few years ago, there was no thought that beautiful, complex wines might have been made from the Carignan grape, given its often thin profile when grown in LanguedocRoussillon, or the rough abrasiveness in examples from Catalonia. While it’s true that this kind of evolution is happening with countless grape varieties when given a splash of modernity, in the case of Carignan it has also meant waiting more than a century for old vines to shed their rustic past and be reborn in splendour. D

Carignan revival: Hudin’s picks from France & Spain Ferrer Bobet, Selecció Especial Vinyes Velles, Priorat, Catalonia, Spain 2013 95 £67.25 H2Vin A rich blend of red and dark cherry fruit with a touch of prune, chocolate, fresh mint, cut herbs and eucalyptus. Very fresh and vibrant fruit on the palate, plus excellent balance and energy with a lengthy finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alcohol 14.5%

Vall Llach, Mas de la Rosa, Priorat, Catalonia, Spain 2015 95 N/A UK Complex nose of fresh red cherry fruit with abundant violet floral notes, fennel, garrigue and many layers of wild herbs and floating orchard blossoms. In the mouth it’s incredibly delicate and structured, revealing spicy herbal notes that leave a lengthy, light dusting of cocoa on the finish. Drink 2020-2024 Alc 16%

Celler l’Encastell, Roquers de Samsó, Priorat, Catalonia, Spain 2015 94

lifts and carries the wine into a lingering finish. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14%

POA Albion Wine Shippers,

Roig Parals, Camí de Cormes, Empordà, Catalonia, Spain 2013 94

La Cuina, Wine Raks Aberdeen

Aromas of red cherry and currant enhanced by a lovely, complex bouquet of forest herbs, fennel, orange peel, toffee, and minty notes. Light and appealing on the palate, which shows delicate fruits and fully integrated tannins that drive a long, lush finish. Drink 2020-2025 Alc 14.5%

Domaine Anne Gros et Jean-Paul Tollot, Les Carrétals, Minervois, Languedoc, France 2015 94 £30-£36 Asset Wines, Domaine Direct,

N/A UK Red cherry nose with red forest fruits, underlying liquorice, cloves, violet floral notes, light vanilla and toast. Red, crisp fruits in the mouth with medium acidity, very fine tannins, and a lengthy, savoury finish. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14.5%

Saó del Coster, Planassos, Priorat, Catalonia, Spain 2014 94

£122.49 Les Caves de Pyrene


Needs time to open but gives way to dark cherry and light mineral notes, a bit of crunchy red cranberry, tea leaf, garrigue and fresh wild herbs. Rich red fruits on the palate are balanced by crisp acidity that

Dark cherry and plum, rich floral notes of violets and almond blossoms, fresh roses, minty freshness, and spicy liquorice. Red and dark fruits on the palate, framed by acidity and an excellent structure – and still a wealth of tannins. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 15% ➢

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 51


Carignan revival: Hudin’s picks, France & Spain continued... Vinyes d’en Gabriel, Mans de Samsó, Montsant, Catalonia, Spain 2014 94 N/A UK www.vinyesdengabriel. com

Dark cherry with wild fennel, liquorice, orange peel, caramelised strawberries and damp earth. Delicate balance with crisp acidity. Thick, savoury red fruits on the palate with lengthy, powdery tannins that pull into a long, long finish. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 15%

Vinyes d’Olivardots, Vd’O 1.11, Empordà, Catalonia, Spain 2011 94 N/A UK Delicate red cherry with a floral note of violet, orange peel, caramel and spicy pepper. Savoury notes on the palate, rich and balanced red and blue fruit, with a very long finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 15%

Celler Masroig, Les Sorts Vinyes Velles, Montsant, Catalonia, Spain 2013 93 N/A UK Full, earthy, dark fruit notes with cherry, orange peel, wild forest herbs; rich and layered. Lovely balance with crisp fruits, extremely well-integrated acidity and a medium finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 15%

Sangenís i Vaqué, Clos Monlleó Selecció, Priorat, Catalonia, Spain 2011 93 £49.38 (2004) Christopher Keiller Vibrant red cherry fruit aromas with a kick of cranberry, fennel, wild herbs, liquorice, slate mineral notes, light eucalyptus and a touch of tar-like reduction that lifts. Soft, refined tannins in the mouth and extremely elegant, powdery on the finish with a floral lift. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14.5%

Vermunver, Gènesi Varietal Carinyena, Montsant, Catalonia, Spain 2013 93 £19.06 Vinissimus Red cherry, orange peel, a touch of pleasing smokiness, forest herbs and fruits; a very wild bouquet overall. Weighty dark fruit on the palate that manages to splash out without overwhelming. Wild and very attractive rusticity that creates a lingering finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%

Cedó Anguera, Clònic Vinyes Velles Bóta, Montsant, Catalonia, Spain 2014 92 £12.45 Vinissimus Dark cherry, ripe plum, chocolate, orange peel, caramel, liquorice, violet and a dash of white pepper. Full, delicious embrace of the palate with rich, red creamy fruits, powdery tannins and a long, lingering finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%

Château La Baronne, Pièce de Roche, Aude Hauetrive, Languedoc, France 2013 92

Marco Abella, Roca Grisa, Priorat, Catalonia, Spain 2015 93 £79.99 Vindependents, WoodWinters Crisp red fruit with lovely touches of laurel, sage and wild herbs, forest berries, toasted brioche and a light floral note. Full dark fruit on the palate with a wealthy grip of tannins and spiciness and a mediumlength finish. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 14.5%

Mas Doix, 1902, Priorat, Catalonia, Spain 2014 93 £163.73 (2012) OW Loeb Brambly red fruit and raspberry aromas mixed with flecks of dark cherry and blueberry, light touches of anise, slate and sweet thyme. Delicate on the palate with crisp red fruit notes and boundless energy from the brisk acidity. A very long finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14.5%

N/A UK www.chateaulabaronne. com

Rich, vibrant notes of dark cherry on the nose, with prune, black pepper, cumin and orange peel. Forest fruits jumping at the corners. Excellent full weight on the palate with dark fruit character coming through very well and leading in to a very lengthy finish. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 14.5%

Domaine Jones, Les Perles Carignan, Vin de France 2013 92 £20 From two vineyards in Tuchan and nearby Paziols, vines more than 100 years old. Dark cherry aromas, with a little prune, powdery cocoa, floral violet notes, the

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lightest tinge of vanilla with tea leaves. Full of acidity on the palate, rounded tannins with excellent integration at the moment. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%

Espelt, Old Vines Carignan, Empordà, Catalonia, Spain 2014 92 N/A UK Light red cherry and currant aromas; menthol, talcum powder, mint, liquorice and light reductive notes. Lovely balance on the palate with crisp red fruits and buoyant acidity that drives into a long, long finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.5%

Sainte Croix, Carignan, Vin de France 2015 92 £21.99 (2014) Cambridge Wine Merchants, De Burgh

From the Hautes Corbières area in Languedoc. Dark cherry and prune fruit, crunchy limestone notes, wild forest herbs, touch of mushroom, orange peel and generally fleshed out very well. Fresh fruit on the palate develops with a touch of sweetness, crisp acidity and a lingering finish. Drink 2020-2025 Alc 14.5%

Celler Josep Vicens, Mon Iaio Sisco Vinyes Velles de Samsó, Terra Alta, Catalonia, Spain 2012 91 N/A UK Dense dark cherry, violet floral aromas, liquorice, orange peel, light mineral clay notes, spicy fennel. Stays generally fresh in the mouth despite the overall density of the wine: dark fruit body, vibrant acidity. Alcohol comes up a touch on the finish, along with crunchy red fruit notes. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 15%

Domaine Bertrand-Bergé, Les Mégalithes, Fitou, Languedoc, France 2015 91 £18.10 Terroir Languedoc Dark and red cherry notes, underlying young plum and fresh orange peel as well as mint and liquorice. Very good fruit definition on the palate, stays fresh and lifted while providing a lengthy finish. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14.5%



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30 great New World buys under £30 We asked Peter Richards MW to scour the New World regions and pick out the best value wines he’s come across of late. The resulting selection reveals some of the most intriguing, exciting and mould-breaking winemaking in the world today WHAT DEFINES ‘NEW World’? And what do we as wine lovers want and expect of it? These two questions merit pondering because the answers aren’t obvious and they challenge a fair few preconceptions. Of course, on one level, the New World is all those territories outside Europe. But what about China, home to some of the most ancient civilisations on earth? The Middle East would seem to be in some sort of limbo territory. Parts of South America have been making wine since the mid-16th century, many years longer than the grand châteaux of the Médoc. And then there are areas within the Old World that seem decidedly new wave… In the end, I decided to keep things simple. I compiled a shortlist (in reality not far off 200 wines) culled from well over 1,000 potential options tasted recently, and then whittled them down – agonisingly – to end up with this list of delectables. The focus was dry whites and reds under £30 (but the odd fizz and sweet has inevitably crept in) and I’ve tried to cover a range of price points, retailers, geographies and vintages. For all of these wines I have been subservient to one overriding selection criterion: excitement. Wines that quicken the pulse. If the New World can be characterised by an emotion rather than geography, it is surely this: an exhilarating sense of discovery. The New World, remember, has liberty on its side. Freedom from history, tradition, rules 5 4 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

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

Peter Richards MW is an award-winning writer, author and broadcaster on wine, and the DWWA Regional Chair for Chile

and red tape… Anything goes. So surely the one thing these wines should deliver is a real thrill, the elation of the new. That was what I sought in each and every one of these wines – and found it in abundance. Because, of course, there were far more wines that I wanted to include. There has never been a better time to drink New World wines. The era of over-exuberance and a misplaced eagerness to please distant critics or markets seems, thankfully, to be coming to an end. All around the New World, forwardthinking producers are focusing on what makes their wines unique and different rather than predictable and uniform. The confidence and excitement is palpable. Many of these wines veer into what might be termed ‘natural’ territory. I’m a cheery agnostic on this subject – I just want wines to refresh, delight and inform me. Life is too short for tedium or repetitious experiences. So enjoy these 30 delicious, great-value wines with this simple aim in mind.


Jansz, Vintage Cuvée, Tasmania, Australia 2011 91 £25-£26 Cambridge Wine Merchants, Dulwich Vintners, Hawkshead, Oddbins, Winedirect

Méthode Tasmanoise, they cheekily call it, but the results are consistently fabulous. This is like a baker’s reverie: fresh sourdough and churned butter. Dry, serious, elegant, beautifully integrated. (The Grand Vintage 2007 is also tasting like a dream at the moment.) Drink 2018-2026 Alcohol 12%

Beaumont Family Wines, Hope Marguerite, Bot River, Walker Bay, South Africa 2016 94 £21 Dreyfus Ashby, Le Vignoble, Newton Wines, Vincisive A consistently stunning Chenin Blanc sourced from vines planted in 1974 and 1978 and barrel-fermented. I sampled this alongside the 2014, 2011, 2009 and 2006: all were beautiful (the latter just edging it overall). Drink 2018-2028 Alc 13.5%

Botanica, The Mary Delany Collection Chenin Blanc, Citrusdal, South Africa 2015 93 £17-£24 Dreyfus Ashby, The Wine Society, WoodWiinters One of those wines that first intrigues you, then delights you. Swirling aromas of ripe peach, blanched nuts, roasted herbs and spring flowers on the nose. Lovely juicy, spicy, rich mouthfeel, utterly convincing. Enjoy a glass of this with belly pork. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14%

Domaine Rewa, Riesling, Pisa, Central Otago, New Zealand 2013 93 £27.25 H2Vin, New St Wine Shop Succulent, thoroughly life-affirming Riesling from a tiny (5.5ha) biodynamic vineyard. Bright lime and Granny Smith apple acidity delightfully offset the 22g/l of residual sugar. The result is a mineral-inflected, revitalising, delicious white ideal for Thai prawn curry. Drink 2018-2032 Alc 12%

Kumeu River, Hunting Hill Chardonnay, Auckland, New Zealand 2015 93 £27.59-£32 Berry Bros & Rudd, Farr VIntners, Lea & Sandeman, Tanners, The Wine Society, Uncorked, Z&B Vintners

The Kiwi Chardonnay scene is on fire right now, with so many delicious, savoury, complex examples being produced. Hunting Hill is a perennial classic made by the Brajkovich family near Auckland. This is tense, citric, toasty, savoury and ageworthy. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14% ➢

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David Franz, Long Gully Road Ancient Vine Semillon, Barossa, Australia 2015 92 £24.50 Swig, The Good Wine Shop, The Knotted Vine For David Franz (son of iconic winemaker Peter Lehmann), a summer evening without a cool glass of Semillon is as bad as breakfast without Vegemite. When it’s this good, it makes sense. Ancient vines and shrewd winemaking give a subtle, brooding style that unfurls on the palate with vibrant, spicy, limey intensity. Tremendous. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 12.2%

Dog Point, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand 2016 92 £16.99-£19 Widely available via UK agent Fields Morris & Verdin It’s all about the ‘positive corruption’ in this wine, according to winemaker Matt Sutherland, son of founding partner and ex-Cloudy Bay man Ivan Sutherland. His wine is new-wave Marlborough Savvy: mouthwatering and expressive, flinty, textured, savoury. Ageworthy, too. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 13%

Elgin Ridge, Chaos White Blend, Elgin, South Africa 2016 92 £18.10-£20.99/50cl Handford, Les Caves de Pyrene, Philglas & Swiggot

The London IT industry’s loss was Elgin’s gain when Marion and Brian Smith upped sticks and launched a biodynamic wine estate. This is a complex, spicy, highly original Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend with beautiful texture, huge energy and a delightfully funky edge. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%

Ovum Wines, Big Salt, Oregon, US 2016 92 £20.49-£21 Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Fine Liquor, The Solent Cellar

Expressing Oregon through Riesling is the mission of John House and his wife Ksenija Kostic. They like to produce ‘an old-fashioned wine in a modern world’. This blend of primarily Riesling and Gewürztraminer caused a sensation at a recent tasting, with its invigorating style. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%

Triangle Wines, Salvo Semillon, El Peral, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina 2017 92 £18-£19 Indigo Wine A collaboration between UK importer Indigo and Gerardo Michelini, this thrilling white is made from ancient vines in Tupungato. Skin contact and concrete-egg maturation imbues this steely white with profound, mineral layers and a generous, spicy texture. Drink 2018-2029 Alc 12%

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Trinity Hill , Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand 2015 92 £19.75-£22.99 (2016) Exel, Liberty Another of the new breed of Kiwi Chardonnays that’s setting palates alight. Gimblett Gravels is renowned as a great red terroir, but this deftly oak-fermented, nutty, savoury, complex wine is yet more proof of its credentials for growing fine whites too. Drink 2018- 2026 Alc 13%

Bellwether, Ant Series Bianco d’Alessano, Riverland, Australia 2016 91 £26 Red Squirrel An astonishing wine. Sue Bell sources fruit, magpie-like, from across Australia. In this case, an obscure Puglian variety from a Riverland vineyard. A heady rush of grippy tannin wells from its pithy, lemony depths. Bellwether’s Vermentino and Tamar Chardonnay are also fab. To believe this wine, you have to try it. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 12%

Jim Barry, Assyrtiko, Clare Valley, Australia 2016 91 £17.99-£24 Corking Wines, Negociants UK, The Solent Cellar Who hasn’t tasted Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini and wanted the experience never to end? Secondgeneration winemaker Peter Barry actually did something about it, and Australia’s first Assyrtiko is a triumph. The palate is bursting with lemony, salty minerality and an electric finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 12.5%

Supernatural Wine Co, Sauvignon Blanc, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand 2014 91 £15.50 Vintage Roots As the label suggests, this is no ordinary Kiwi Sauvignon. Skin contact and natural winemaking yield an intriguing, rewarding, food-friendly white with baked gooseberry and honeyed aromas. The palate is textured, spicy and succulent. Serious – and seriously different. The Pinot Gris is also stonking. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 14%

De Martino, Gallardía Old Vine White, Itata Valley, Secano Interior, Chile 2016 90 £11.30-£12.99 Berry Bros & Rudd, Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene, The Wine Butler

I marvel at how this unusual blend (70% Moscatel, 30% Corinto) marries a wonderful scent (red apples, fresh grapes, a touch of ginger biscuit) and a steely, juicy, invigorating flavour profile. A thing of beauty. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 12.5% ➢

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Jurgen Gouws, Intellego Syrah, Swartland, South Africa 2015 95 £17.30-£20.49 Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene, Oddbins Part of Oddbins’ new ‘Natural Wines’ range, this is a belter. The Cape can do Rhône-style Syrah wonderfully well and the vivid peppery, meaty, floral aromatics on this are immediately captivating. A grippy, food-friendly palate ensues. A wine that just flows. Sheer decadence. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 12.5%

Coal Pit, Tiwha Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago, New Zealand 2015 94 £29 Ministry of Drinks, The Antipodean Sommelier, Wine Library One for Côte de Nuits lovers. Haunting aromas. Floral, vivid summer berry fruit with stemmy hints. The palate confirms this as properly sexy Pinot – a rare thing of beauty: elegant, fine, persistent and complex. Beautiful with brie-style cheese or pan-fried duck breast. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 13%

Vergelegen, DNA, Somerset West, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2012 94 £23.49 Loki, Roberts & Speight, Salut Enjoyed alongside a delicious Château Léoville Poyferré 1996, this muscular yet engaging Cape red held its head high. The blend is dominated by Cabernet Franc, giving it a peppery, leafy lift and vitality, while the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon deliver intensity and complexity. Edgy, bloody, spicy, savoury and insistent. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.4%

Birichino, Besson Vineyard, Old Vines Vignes Centenaires Grenache, Central Coast, California US 2014 92 £29 Berry Bros & Rudd, Marks & Spencer, Swig, The Old Bridge Wine Shop

Yes, it’s made from own-rooted vines over 100 years old and yes, it’s all trendy neutral barrels, wild yeasts, a touch of appassimento, unfiltered… But that’s missing the point. This wine is simply joyous. Pale, bright, crunchy, savoury, edgy, elegant. Utterly revitalising. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 13%

Clonakilla, Hilltops Shiraz, Canberra, Australia 2016 92 £20.40-£24.99 Exel, Liberty, The Good Wine Shop This Aussie classic is all about the vivid, peppery aromatics and the refreshing, lifted yet complex palate profile. You do wonder what founder Dr John Kirk’s Irish heritage and/or his love of music contributed to this pioneering operation. But one thing is irrefutable: this Shiraz is a great value fine wine. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 14%

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Errazuriz, Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Costa, Chile 2016 91 £14.50-£17.40 Dulwich Vintners, Hailsham Cellars, Noel Young, Stone Vine & Sun, Taurus, The Oxford Wine Co, The Wine Reserve

The obsessive work of Errazuriz and Francisco Baettig in Aconcagua Costa has led to simply stellar Pinot Noir. Top-label Las Pizarras is sensational; this is a more affordable version but still offers outstanding value at this price. Piercing scents and fine, poised, classy flavour profile. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%

Escarpment, The Edge Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand 2016 91 £14.50 Booths, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Great Grog, Hermitage Cellars, Promotion Wine, Waitrose, Waitrose Cellar

Escarpment has long done a fine line in savoury, understated, nuanced Pinot Noir, and this is yet another brilliant, great value example. Elegantly bittersweet, poised, spicy and engaging. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14%

Kunin Wines, Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California, US 2015 91 £28-£31 Harvey Nichols, Roberson Seth Kunin came from a foodie background; his passion, Rhône wines. It shows in this sensuous, vivid red brimming with leaping aromas of black pepper, violets and cool berries. Serve slightly chilled, to temper the spicy alcohol on the finish, and partner with a rack of lamb. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14.5%

Morandé Adventure, Creole, Itata Valley, Secano Interior, Chile 2015 91 £15.99-£19.95 All About Wine, Berkmann What impresses most about this southern Chilean red is the way it marries a light-hearted feel with real substance. The blend is 85% Cinsault and 15% País, made using carbonic maceration and concrete eggs by the skilled Ricardo Baettig. Scented, juicy and totally rewarding. Drink 2018 Alc 13%

Amalaya, Malbec-Tannat-Petit Verdot, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina 2016 90 £12.50-£12.99 Exel, Liberty This wonderful label has a knack of translating the breathless altitude, rugged landscape and fierce sun of the Calchaquí Valley into intense yet balanced wines. Tons of roasted dark fruit, with hints of coffee and chocolate. Intense, grounded and long. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14% ➢

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Domaine des Dieux, Josephine Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa 2012 90 £15.95 Stone Vine & Sun A new discovery for me, but I was very impressed not just with this lovely Pinot but also the beautifully savoury Chardonnay and complex MCC fizz. A great-value mature Pinot Noir, with smoky, tobacco scents and an elegant finish. Ideal for pheasant casserole. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13%

Mac Forbes, Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Australia 2016 90 £24.75 Bottle Apostle, Philglas & Swiggot, Theatre of Wine A wine that stops you in your tracks. Arresting, piercing aromas of warm earth, fresh plant growth and tangy red fruit. It’s spring in a glass. Sappy, taut and beautiful, easy in its own skin. A supremely elegant cross-Yarra blend from a great winemaker. Drink 2018-2029 Alc 12.4%

El Abasto, Malbec-Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina 2016 89 £9.90-£11.49 Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene The label urges you to ‘drink chilled’ and that pretty much sums it up. Juicy, refreshing, lively red with floral, peppery, herbal hints and an uplifting flavour profile. Enjoy alongside a plate of charcuterie. Drink 2018 Alc 12%

Parker Estate, Weirs Lane CabernetMerlot, Limestone Coast, Australia 2015 88 £7.95 The Wine Society Claret lovers on the hunt for a bargain, take note. This is a great-value red with evocative aromas of roast peppers and cassis. It’s mid-weight on the palate, juicy, with a nip of fine tannin and spice. Drink 2018 Alc 14.5%

Domaine Bousquet, Fortified Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2017 89 £14.59/50cl Vintage Roots Dense, rich, sweet and utterly heartwarming. The fortification is well judged – at 17% it’s not as fiery as many Ports. Something very different to put on your table alongside all kind of chocolate puds or cheese. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 17% D

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A clean sweep What would lead Santa Rita, one of Chile’s biggest and most famous names, to pull up hundreds of hectares of its vines? Amanda Barnes reveals the wisdom behind the Casa Real producer’s radical next steps CHANGE IS AFOOT in Alto Jahuel. First planted in 1850, the roots of Santa Rita’s historic 600ha wine estate run deep. This is a site of both viticultural heritage and cultural importance for Chile: it was once a hideout for 120 soldiers during the independence wars, and it was in this same vineyard that Carmenère was first identified, hidden away between Merlot vines, in 1994. Alto Jahuel is part of Chile’s vinous patrimony and it is the main artery for Santa Rita’s 100 million-litre production – including its Carmen brand and Casa Real, one of Chile’s foremost icon wines. Long though its history may be, there is a seismic shift underway in Santa Rita. Cecilia Torres, winemaker for Casa Real since its inception in 1989, stepped down in 2017, handing the reins to Sebastian Labbé (who joined Viña Carmen in 2005). Labbé is also taking over Santa Rita’s premium wines from Andrés Ilabaca, who after 20 years is now downscaling to consultant winemaker. There

may be new faces in the barrel room, but the big change is going on in the vineyards.

Grand-scale renewal Santa Rita is in the middle of an unprecedented replanting programme, called WiSe (Wine & Seeds). One of Chile’s most ambitious to date, it is costing £15 million and involves the replanting of two-thirds of Santa Rita’s Maipo estate – 380ha over five years. That’s the equivalent of half the appellation of Pomerol in Bordeaux. ‘I don’t think anyone has done a replanting project of this size in Chile before – certainly not in Maipo,’ Labbé tells me in an assured tone that veers towards excitement rather than anxiety. From an outsider’s point of view, this may appear quite a gamble. Maipo is Chile’s most prestigious wine region: a grand cru, if you will. Deep alluvial terraces, clay and gravel soils, low humidity and a Mediterranean climate provide perfect conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon.


The region is the breeding ground for Chile’s most revered wine labels, including Almaviva, Chadwick, Don Melchor and Santa Rita’s own Casa Real. Since its inaugural 1989 vintage, Casa Real has come to be considered one of Chile’s first icon wines. Few others carry such gravitas in the New World, and Santa Rita has built its reputation on this, and its other Alto Jahuel wines. Chile may famously be one of the few wine countries untouched by phylloxera, but there is a different plague affecting its vineyards: margarodes. These tiny, subterranean insects attack the roots of the vine, reducing the vigour of the plant, and can ultimately lead to vine death for certain rootstocks – including the ubiquitously planted 101-14 Mgt. ‘Our production was decreasing steadily,’ confides Labbé. ‘In the worst-affected vineyard blocks, production was down by 60%. Margarodes are a big problem in Maipo; almost everyone’s vineyards are affected in some way.’ And, he adds, margarodes aren’t the only problem affecting Chilean viticulture today. ‘Eutypa dieback, leafroll and fanleaf viruses have all moved through the country indiscriminately,’ he explains. This combination of leaf and wood diseases with margarodes has left the vines very weak.

‘The replanting of 380ha is equivalent to half the appellation of Pomerol’

Below: new plantings of more diseaseresistant rootstock in Santa Rita’s alluvial vineyard terraces

In 2005, the winemaking team started making a masterplan for the future and found that most of its vineyards were not up to standard. Thus the seed was planted for WiSe, the viticultural overhaul that involves the 380ha replant. Working with US consultant Phil Freese, WiSe readdresses Santa Rita’s entire viticultural approach – learning from the mistakes, and successes, of the last two centuries. The company plans to remedy the historic over-use of vineyard treatments by going herbicide-free by 2020, favouring cover crops and an army of sheep instead. Mismanaged irrigation and undue water-stress are other past gaffes it will be rebalancing. The approach to margarodes will be one of co-existence, rather than extermination as previous generations unsuccessfully attempted to do. ‘We are replanting with a combination of more resistant rootstocks – including vinifera roots of País vines,’ explains Labbé. ‘There’s something about País that can resist margarodes – you find very old and very healthy País vineyards in Chile.’ The rootstocks are being grafted with a massal selection of Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Rita’s wealth of old vines – including the old Casa Real blocks – and other international ➢







Pacific Ocean






Puente Alto


Alto Jahuel

Rio Maipo 0







Lo Arcaya (735m) El Litre (770m)

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Hill 93 (680m)


Hill 94 (640m)

Alto Jahuel

Moscatel Petit Verdot Romano Sangiovese Syrah Tempranillo

Steady progression

clones are being brought in. While this is potentially the simplest piece of the puzzle, getting hold of clean material in Chile has proved one of the greater challenges. ‘The nurseries in Chile do a mediocre job,’ laments Labbé. ‘We’ve been testing all the supposedly clean material we’ve bought, and through our analysis we were rejecting up to 25% of the plants at first, because they were infected with viruses. I don’t mind rejecting the plants, but it brings more delays.’ Although costly, getting the right material for such a large replant is worth the wait: ‘Whatever we are planting will be the future of Chile for many years to come,’ says Labbé.

Looking out over a horizon of saplings, the change looks radical. But Labbé thinks the transformation in the glass will be more gradual: ‘It’s a five-year transition, during which we will be making less wine in order to allow our new vines the time they need to establish their root systems well.’ By 2020, consumers should begin to notice the difference in entry-level wines such as Medalla Real, which will be ‘brighter and more vibrant, with better-balanced fruit’. What won’t change for the time being is the old-vine component of Casa Real. ‘We are going to make sure that the new vineyards we

Santa Rita – a timeline 1989 1880


Santa Rita founded in Alto Jahuel

Santa Rita acquires Viña Carmen

First Casa Real vintage released

1996 Andrés Ilabaca starts at Santa Rita




Carmen, Chile’s oldest winery, is founded

Cecilia Torres starts at Santa Rita

Carmen produces Chile’s first organic wine

6 4 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Map: Maggie Nelson

Casa Real vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc Cinsault Grenache Malbec Merlot


are planting now have consistency and maturity before we replant the oldest blocks,’ reveals Labbé. ‘We may never replant the oldest blocks, in fact! But we will start incorporating the new blocks to a greater extent than we have done previously. Since the 2014 vintage, Cecilia [Torres] has already been including between 6% and 8% from the newer hillside vineyards.’ Blending isn’t just a case of necessity – the Casa Real blocks only yield 3.5 tonnes/ha – but also choice. ‘The fragmented rocks in the colluvial hillside soils give you reactive tannins. You get lots of structure and dark fruit, which can be very important in the blend and has a more modern wine profile, but you don’t get the delicacy and creaminess of the older Casa Real vineyards. I have to be careful not to be aggressive in changes, because Casa Real is a wine that has a history and fans,’ says Labbé. As with all noble wines of the world, he sees his role as a steward of the brand – ushering it into the next era while remaining loyal to its established fan base. During the wine’s 29-year history, Torres herself experimented

‘I have to be careful not to be aggressive in changes – Casa Real has history and fans’ Sebastian Labbé

Below: new blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon in the west-facing Cerro 93 vineyard on the Alto Jahuel estate

with fermenting in concrete, stainless steel and barrel, reflecting the ebb and flow of winemaking tendencies in Chile. The constant was the provenance. And the elegant Alto Jahuel fruit is what continues to shine through today – layers of red and black berries with a trademark note of cedar.

Innovative instinct In the passing of the Casa Real torch, Labbé and Torres spent the 2017 vintage together, tasting grapes from each individual plant. ‘Cecilia explained to me how each plant behaves,’ says Labbé. This inheritance of knowledge is fundamental to the transition. ‘We have all the conductivity maps and soil studies that you can imagine but, in the end, knowing the individual vines and blocks is just as important. It is a mixture of history, technology and tasting the grapes.’ That feels like an understatement, given the huge amount of work that’s going into the WiSe project. But while the scale of Santa Rita’s replant might be shocking, this is a company that hasn’t shied away from bold moves in the past. It was the first to sell a Chilean ‘Carmenère’ following its unexpected – and controversial – discovery of the grape; it also established the country’s first organic wine brand. Both of these are commercial norms in Chile today. This radical replant too seems like a carefully measured move, and one that reflects modern Chilean winemaking at its best – a courageous blend of inheritance, innovation and, ultimately, intuition. D Amanda Barnes is a wine and travel writer who has been based in South America since 2009

2014 2005 Sebastian Labbé joins Carmen

WiSe replantation in Alto Jahuel starts



The final replanting of 150ha planned

More than 230ha replanted so far




Carmen becomes first Chilean winery to label and sell Carmenère

Torres retires; Ilabaca becomes director of technical research; Labbé (above) becomes premium winemaker; Emily Faulconer joins as Carmen winemaker

First harvest of new vines expected

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 65


The Decanter interview

Chris Howell The man behind the iconic Cain Five, Chris Howell of Cain Vineyard & Winery in Napa Valley talks terroir and natural winemaking with Stephen Brook, explaining why he thinks wine is ‘intrinsically human’ STANDING ON A hillock overlooking the Cain vineyards on Spring Mountain, Chris Howell, slight and trim in build, is lord of all he surveys. Vines are planted in blocks among mountain meadows and rocky outcrops, and in the distance lie the Newton vineyards and the outline of Howell Mountain (no relation) on the skyline. Howell has been the general manager here since 1990, and this is also his home, as the owners, Jim and Nancy Meadlock, do not live on the property. Most Napa winemakers have been rigorously trained at one of the California wine colleges and then enriched by experience in various parts of the world before being offered the plum jobs that they now occupy. For Howell the journey to Cain was more circuitous. He was born in Washington state, and although his father’s work took him to Europe frequently, Howell was slow to follow. After studying philosophy and cultural criticism in Chicago, he began to visit France, as his first wife’s parents lived in Geneva and

‘I’d sooner wine was defined by vineyards than variety. “Bordeaux blend” refers to a place that we’re not’ Chris Howell 6 6 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

encouraged their wine travels. At the same time Howell was studying biochemistry, immunology, and other subjects in Seattle and working as an environmental chemist. ‘Someone in my lab suggested I try making my own wine. Some old-time home winemakers gave me a few tips. I made a Muscat – my first orange wine!’ Then in 1982 he went to Montpellier University in France, with Miguel Torres as one of his classmates, and also took courses at Bordeaux University. ‘But the courses were on winemaking, and it was terroir that intrigued me, and no one was teaching that.’ On he went: some classes at UC Davis, a few months at Château Mouton Rothschild, a harvest in Stags Leap District. Then spells at Clos Pegase in Calistoga, where André Tchelistcheff was his mentor, and consulting with Marimar Torres (sister of his old classmate) and with Helen Turley at the Peter Michael winery. In 1990, Cain offered him a job, and he has been there ever since.

Napa character Cain had been founded in 1980, and its flagship wine Cain Five, a blend of the five principal Bordeaux varieties, already existed by 1990. Howell’s first project was to replant most of the vineyards, which had been planted on AXR1 rootstocks. In the meantime he created another blend: Cain Cuvée. ‘I didn’t want a wine that would essentially be a

Howell at a glance Born 1952 Education University of Chicago 1972-1975 Wine studies Montpellier University 19821984; Bordeaux University; UC Davis Hobbies Reading and music

collection of leftovers. I wanted a style that was more immediate and approachable than Cain Five, with less extraction, more Merlot, less new oak.’ The portfolio of red wines was completed in 1997 with Cain Concept. ‘As our estate vineyards were still very young, Jim Meadlock wanted to know where the best vineyards were in Napa. I said around Rutherford, so we started buying grapes from the valley floor 700m below. We used much of it for Cain Five, but once the replanting was finished, it seemed a shame to give up those fruit sources, so we used them for the new wine, Cain Concept.’ In recent years Cain Concept differs significantly from Cain Five in that its fruit sources are completely different, from the Napa Valley floor and benchlands

rather than the Spring Mountain estate. Cain Cuvée remains unchanged as a lighter, more accessible style, as described above. All the Cain wines are Bordeaux-style blends, but Howell has always disliked the term. ‘I’d sooner wine was defined by vineyards than by variety. “Bordeaux blend” refers to a place that we’re not. Blends in Bordeaux have an economic element. They plant many varieties because they flower and ripen at different times. That’s not the case in Napa. Take Merlot: it is often thought of as a softening variety, but the best Napa Merlots aren’t at all soft. As for Petit Verdot, in Bordeaux it can fill out the structure, but Napa wines don’t lack structure. So here at Cain it seemed superfluous until I moderated the extraction, and found ➢

Above: Chris Howell in the Cain vineyards

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 67


‘I find fault-free wines lack sensuality.

that the variety could instead contribute spicy, herbal aromas and add complexity. ‘What’s more, the term Bordeaux blend means little to many Americans who probably haven’t tasted much Bordeaux. It’ll be a sign that Napa has come of age when it no longer needs to refer to Bordeaux.’

philosophy Wine is about Balanced Howell is one of the most thoughtful of

more than winemaking’ Chris Howell

winemakers, and our stroll through the vines would prompt various ruminations. ‘When I came here in 1990, I was more influenced by a scientific approach than I am now. Today I feel more open and I’m conscious that we’re still learning. I’m a believer in less intervention, but not in no intervention. ‘Anyway, intervention applied to wine is a continuum; without some human intervention wine could not exist. I believe in terroir too, but it’s not straightforward. We recognise a certain site gives great wine, so we analyse the site and the soil and then assume that data is what explains its greatness. But that’s not necessarily the case. It’s not causal.’ Given the essential mysteriousness of terroir, and the ability of skilled winemakers to intervene to varying degrees in fashioning the expression of that terroir, where did the balance lie? ‘Winemaking can so easily obscure terroir,’ he says. ‘Here in Napa it’s unfortunate but true that winemakers have to make certain styles to get high scores. They’re under intense pressure from their owners. ‘Often it’s based on phenolic ripeness, as though the sole criterion in a wine’s balance is tannin. The problem with ripening is that you can’t go backwards. If you wait for phenolic ripeness, you may gain something but you may lose other things. Fruit doesn’t have to be fully expressive when you pick it. What matters is sensing how it will turn into wine. Defining levels of ripeness is cultural and personal too, so it’s blurred. Unfortunately blind tastings often favour sweet and loud.’ Yet, I tried to point out, US consumers have come to accept that Pinot Noir can be made in different styles: the burly, high-alcohol, Syrah-like wines in fashion a dozen years ago, and, in complete contrast, the slimmer, more fragrant and ethereal Pinots made today in coastal sites. Why doesn’t this apply to Cabernet? ‘To some extent it does,’ he explains. ‘Cathy Corison and Randy Dunn choose to harvest at lower ripeness. But Cabernet, unlike Pinot, is a status wine with Left: Cain Cuvée is a more accessible style than Cain Five, made with more Merlot and less new oak

6 8 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

consumer expectations. They’re very expensive and need to conform to a certain model. With Burgundian varieties, consumers are more open-minded. Of course Bordeaux is picking riper too – it’s a choice. ‘But you could also argue that even in Burgundy, the heartland of terroir, winemaking can impose itself on terroir. Echézeaux wines from Jayer or Dujac are poles apart in terms of their winemaking. So there too you could say that winemaking rules.’

Deep engagement Despite his scientific background, Howell takes a more relaxed approach to wine faults than most winemakers. ‘Wine is a fermented product, not fruit. You can’t completely preserve the integrity of that fruit as you’re transforming it into wine. Today natural wine and low-intervention wines expose faults anew! I find fault-free wines lack sensuality. Wine is about more than winemaking. ‘In the mid-19th century, Pasteur worked on identifying and curing maladies du vin. Today’s renaissance of minimal-intervention or “natural” wine allows us to experience the kinds of wines that Pasteur would have known. Now we can taste the relatively unaffected, uninflected wines of pretechnology. Here we can find the undeniable beauty of some of them, and also rediscover all the “wine diseases” that would have been familiar to that generation. ‘Perhaps unintentionally, the natural movement gives us a window into the preoenology wines of the past. There is something intrinsically human about wine – that’s what pulls us towards “real” or “natural” wines.’


It’s become an alternative for those who have come to distrust the AP or DOC or a fancy château label. Indeed, Howell is not unsympathetic towards the natural wine movement, and dislikes the false antithesis of ‘natural’ and ‘technological’.

Above: the morning fog rolls away from Spring Mountain’s vineyards

‘Natural wine is by far the most interesting part of the world of wine today,’ he continues. ‘Here is the quest for honesty, and the pursuit of a deep engagement with nature. Why would you have 100,000 wines, or even 100 wines – if they don’t easily give us some unique expression and reflection of the place and time where they grew, and the hands that grew and made them? Wine is a conversation!’ Sometimes he may express himself cryptically, but Chris Howell sees himself less as a technician than, perhaps, an overseer, seeking to transform place into a living product: the wine in your glass. For him the mysteries resonate – whether of soil or terroir, or the imperfect control a winemaker has of the process he must undertake. Everything, one senses, is up for question, and there are no easy answers. After a series of encounters with Howell in London and at his Spring Mountain stronghold, there are few more stimulating people with whom to share a finely crafted Napa blend. D Stephen Brook is an awarded author and has been a Decanter contributing editor since 1996

Brook’s pick: five to try from Cain Cain Five, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley 2013 93

Photograph: Charles O’Rear

N/A UK 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, supported by 22% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. On the nose this is unsurprisingly youthful, with rich, dense black fruit aromas that are opulent without being overblown. Initially rich and silky, this also shows a good deal of spice and even tar. Despite ample ripe tannins and fair acidity that give good structure, this has a graceful character. Long finish. Drink 2020-2042 Alcohol 14.5%

Cain Five, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley 2012 93 £92.60 Justerini & Brooks Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for half the blend, the supporting characters being 29% Merlot, 8% each Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec. In striking contrast to the denser 2013, this has

sprightly blackcurrant aromas that are lifted and piquant, with zest and immediacy. It’s medium-bodied, taut but silky, with fine acidity and black pepper tones to enliven the palate. Accessible and persistent. Drink 2018-2035 Alc 14.4%

Cain Five, Napa Valley 2004 92 £97.60 Justerini & Brooks In this well-balanced vintage, the blend is 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. The wine spent 22 months in barriques. The nose shows elegant blackcurrant, with lifted mocha and herbal tones. Although rich and creamy, the palate remains fresh and lively, with good acidity and welcome polish. Mature without being too evolved, and still going strong. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14.4%

Cain Concept, Napa Valley 2013 92 N/A UK

No Malbec in this blend, but 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot and 19% Petit Verdot. Quite different aromas from Cain Five, with succulent and generous black fruits. The palate is hedonistic and luxurious, with a rich, suave texture, although supported by ample tannin and good acidity. Spicy and edgy, this has vigour and length. Drink 2018-2035 Alc 14.6%

Cain Concept, Napa Valley 2012 91 £42.59 Justerini & Brooks Cabernet Sauvignon dominates at 80%, with lesser roles taken by 10% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Less opulent than the 2013, this has discreet, smoky blackcurrant aromas and a light savoury tone. The palate is relatively lean, with red fruits and fresh acidity. Perhaps it lacks some weight, but it’s refined, persistent and cool. Good length and balance. Drink 2018-2032 Alc 14.6%

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 69

The Decanter guarantee Our buying guide is here to provide you with trusted, independent, expert recommendations on what to buy, what to drink and what to cellar. Each panel tasting is judged by three experienced tasters chosen for their authority in the category of wine being rated. All wines are tasted blind and are pre-poured for judges in flights of eight to 10 wines. Our three experts taste and score their set of wines individually but then discuss their scores together at the end of each flight. Any wines on which scores are markedly different are retasted; however, judges are under no obligation to amend their scores. Judges are encouraged to look for typicity in wines, rewarding those which are true to their region. Prices are not revealed, and thus not taken into consideration when scoring. The tastings are held in the controlled environment of Decanter’s tasting suite: a plain white room, with natural light and no noise. We limit the number of wines tasted to a manageable level – a maximum of 85 per day – allowing judges to taste more thoroughly and avoid palate fatigue. Drink-by dates are based on how long it is prudent to keep the wine in question. However, some wines will have a longer ageing capacity if stored in pristine conditions throughout their lifespan.

Buying Guide Expert recommendations • Essential reading This month’s panel tastings

Northern Rhône 2015 & New Zealand Chardonnay

Scoring system Tasters rate the wines using the 100-point scoring system. The overall Decanter rating is the average of all three judges’ scores. The ratings are as follows:

98-100: Exceptional A great, exceptional and profound wine

95-97: Outstanding An excellent wine of great complexity and character

71 Steven Spurrier’s fine wine world Our consultant editor and 2017 Man of the Year picks fine wines to drink now and lay down, all priced from £25

72 Weekday wines By Christelle Guibert Want something more adventurous in your midweek wine selection, but don’t want to make an expensive mistake? We’ve found 25 exciting wines to try for under £25

75 Northern Rhône 2015 87 wines tasted Cornas and Côte-Rôtie are the stars in a panel tasting ranked as ‘one of the best ever’ by our effusive judges

90-94: Highly Recommended A very accomplished wine, with impressive complexity

86-89: Recommended A well-made, straightforward and enjoyable wine

83-85: Commended An acceptable, simple wine with limited personality

76-82: Fair

87 New Zealand Chardonnay 92 wines tasted While two regions performed well, our judges were disappointed with too many wines of indistinct character

Correctly made, if unexciting 70-75: Poor Unbalanced and/or bland with no character 50-69: Faulty Displays winemaking faults For the Exceptional and Outstanding Decanter ratings, judges’ individual scores and tasting notes are listed in addition to the average score. For the Highly Recommended and Recommended wines, individual and average scores are also listed but tasting notes are a combination of the three judges’ notes. For the tasting notes of the Commended wines, please go to

70 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

94 Expert’s Choice: Georgia By Simon Woolf The focus is on the former Soviet state’s much-discussed qvevri wines, but there are other fascinating options too

Glasses kindly supplied by


fine wine world Decanter’s long-standing consultant editor and 2017 Decanter Man of the Year hand-picks fine wines for drinking now and recommends others to lay down, all priced from £25 upwards From the cellar Rocca di Montegrossi, Vin Santo

For the cellar Podere La Villa

A vertical tasting of Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Vin Santo del Chianti Classico from his first 1995 vintage to the recent 2007 has left a long-lasting impression. He inherited the vin santo tradition from his mother and has perfected it by creating a well-ventilated drying room where bunches of grapes are hung on rails, allowing botrytis to develop – essential to give the wine complex aromas as well as the glycerine that brings softness and roundness to the palate. After Christmas, when the grapes have lost up to 70% of their original volume, they are slowly pressed and the juice run off to ferment in small barrels which are sealed for seven or eight years.

Towards the end of his illustrious career, devoted principally to the wines of Tuscany, Giacomo Tachis (1944-2016) – the Decanter Man of the Year 2011 and creator of Tignanello, Solaia and many other iconic wines – purchased a small Chianti Classico vineyard at San Casciano in Val di Pesa, southwest of Florence. His daughter Ilaria, aided by her husband Raffaele d’Amico in the vineyard and Alessandro Cellai, her father’s closest student, in the cellar, now manages 6ha planted with 80% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot. It is from the northwestfacing Merlot vineyard that she reserves the best grapes to produce

The inaugural 1995 was good, but the 1997 benefited from nets to protect the grapes and was less rich but more precise (95/100pts); 1998 was a perfect balance of elegant richness (96), while the 2000 had more energy but less concentration (94). The 2001 was the star of the tasting: fresher, beautifully expressed bitter orange nose and Yquem richness on the palate (97) – while the 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 were all classic but slightly different. The current 2007 (96) vintage showed more depth, concentration and energy, yet with great liveliness on the finish (£37.50/37.5cl Stannary St Wine Co).

the cuvée Giacomo in memory of her father. The Pargolo, Chianti Classico 2013, reflecting the 80/20 vineyard plantings, shows elegant flavours, lovely texture and a lifted firm finish. Yet the Giacomo 2015 (94) moves into another league: rich, vibrant and vigorous black fruits on the nose, marvellous depth on the palate with no heaviness, a touch of green spice to add freshness, and natural tannins to keep it improving in the bottle past 2025. Says Ilaria: ‘The complex structure, the suppleness and the elegant tannic note is precisely what my father would have loved.’ (£35, info@

The Spurrier selection Acroterra Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece 2015 92 £39 Theatre of Wine Greece’s top oenologist, Apostolos Thymiopoulos, has created a strikingly good wine from ungrafted 80-year-old vines on Santorini’s volcanic pumice soils. Honey and yellow stone fruit aromas, then broad, slighly saline flavours and a very long finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%

Bodega Aniello, Trousseau, Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina 2015 95 £55 Fortnum & Mason, The Secret Cellar, Vagabond

Fruit for this magical wine comes from a 0.8ha plot of vines first recognised in 1932 as Trousseau from France’s Jura region, but probably planted 30 years earlier. Beautiful red fruits, earthy undertones and a lovely fresh finish – beguiling. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%

D’Oliveiras, Terrantez, Madeira, Portugal 1988 94 £67 Bovey Wines, The Good Wine Shop

Founded in 1850, Pereira d’Oliveira has the largest stocks of single-vintage Madeiras in Funchal. This astounding amber-coloured Terrantez has dried flowers and leather on the nose, richly warm nutty flavours and a vibrant, dry finish. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 19%

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 71

Weekday wines Looking to try something different or adventurous, but don’t want to make an expensive mistake? Decanter’s tastings director Christelle Guibert has done the hard work for you, picking out 25 exciting and accessible wines available in the UK for £25 or less

Mas de Daumas Gassac, Rosé Frizant, France 2016 90 £19.99 Buon Vino, DVine Cellars, Les Caves de Pyrene, The Grape Store

Berry Bros & Rudd by Domaine Sautereau, Sancerre, Loire, France 2016 91 £16.95 Berry Bros & Rudd

Approachable delicate summer fruit aromas. Mainly Cabernet Sauvignon with a dash of Petit Manseng and sourced from the domaine’s younger vines. Very refreshing dry palate with a fine and lively mousse. The perfect alternative to NV Champagne as an aperitif. Alc 11.5%

Berry Bros & Rudd has an extensive range of own-labels which includes many classics. Leafy apple and lemon aromas develop on the juicy, intense palate framed by beautifully poised acidity that provides tension and a lively yet full texture on the finish. Alc 12.5%

Fernanda Cappello, Traminer Aromatico, Friuli Grave, Italy 2016 91 £9.95 Tanners

Domaine Bellegarde, Jurançon Sec, Southwest France 2015 90 £13.95 Yapp Brothers

Traminer Aromatico is better known as Gewürztraminer, so expect rose and lychee scents to jump out of the glass plus ripe white fruit and spicy characters. It’s oily-textured palate is food-friendly, with the right amount of acidity to keep it fresh and zesty. Alc 12.5%

Jurançon’s dry whites are underrated, overshadowed by the sweet wines which make up 70% of production. This has pungent orchard fruit, citrus tones and a hint of honey. It’s crisp but has weight and depth with tension from the acidity to keep the palate alive. Alc 13.5%

Kumeu River, Village Chardonnay, Auckland, New Zealand 2016 90 £12 Booths It may be the entry-level Chardonnay from this standout producer, but it is definitely a grown-up wine. Expressive and juicy ripe peach, apple and lemon curd on a textured palate with vivid acidity. A bargain at the price and a wine guaranteed to impress. Alc 13.5%

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High street


Lismore, The Age of Grace Viognier, Greyton, Western Cape, South Africa 2016 92

Le Cantine Murgo, Etna, Sicily, Italy 2016 90 £15 Roberson

£20 Oddbins

From 500m altitude on the slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna, where Caricante and Catarratto grapes are sourced from volcanic soils. Delicate jasmine and camomile perfume with a mineral-edged tension on the complex palate. A refreshing wine that would match well with baked fish. Alc 12.5%

Viognier is a tricky variety to master, but Samantha O’Keefe has done it again here. From high-altitude vineyards in the foothills of the Riviersonderend mountain range comes this beauty, full of jasmine and orange peel aromas. It has an oily texture with ripe fruit wrapped around a backbone of acidity which keeps it very fresh and very enjoyable. Alc 14%

25 UNDER £25 Rabl, Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria 2016 90 £9.50 Marks & Spencer This is almost like drinking Badoit mineral water with lemon zest! It’s dangerously refreshing with a nice spritz to it that keeps you coming back for another glass. A great tipple to have on standby in your fridge as an aperitif or with lighter vegetable-based dishes. Alc 12.5%

McGuigan, The Shortlist Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia 2016 89 £14 Sainsbury’s This is a great introduction to cool-climate dry Riesling. Zippy, refreshing lime and grapefruit flavours are enlivened by crisp acidity on the tight, mineral palate. Very enjoyable now but with the potential to age as well, so stash a few extra bottles in your cellar. Alc 12%

Château Bauduc, Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France 2016 89 £10.95 From Vineyards Direct Celebrity chefs Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay have this as their house white – and you should too, even if your cooking might not be quite as good! It’s forward and ripe with fresh mango and papaya characters, a nice creamy texture and fine balancing acidity. Alc 12%

Maison Roche de Bellene, Bellenos Gamay Noir, Burgundy, France 2016 90 £12.50 Oddbins



From Nicolas Potel’s negociant range, with the Gamay grapes sourced from his friend, the artisan Beaujolais winemaker Stéphane Aviron. Textured and complex fresh red berries on a light-bodied palate. A rosé for a wide range of food. Alc 12%

Adnams, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand 2015 92 £21.99 Adnams

Castillo de Los Templarios, Mencía, Bierzo, Spain 2016 91 £9.50 Marks & Spencer

Made by John Forrest of Forrest Estate for Adnams, this Pinot has all the elegance you want from Burgundy with the energy of the New World. The structure is refined with ripe and sweet red cherry fruit, firm yet well-integrated tannins, a bright acidity and stylish oak on the finish. Really classy. Alc 13.5%

Spain’s northwest produces a host of exciting wines, including this savoury and refreshing example from the local grape Mencía. Attractively earthy, with aromatic spices and ripe black fruits on the concentrated palate plus a fine grip of tannins. A very moreish food wine. Alc 13%

Clunia, Malbec, Castilla y León, Spain 2015 91 £24.99 House of Townend

Höpler, Blaufränkisch, Burgenland, Austria 2013 91 £12.95 Great Western Wines

A heavyweight wine in a heavyweight bottle. Made in partnership with Bodegas Rioja Vega, the Malbec grapes are grown at 1,000m altitude. It’s complex and dense with layers of blue fruit and violets, wild tannins and subtle oak on the finish. A seriously hefty wine, so get grilling the steak! Alc 15%

A great alternative to a cru Beaujolais with its seductively juicy dark fruit and notes of cracked black pepper. The palate is smooth and supple, with fresh acidity and soft tannins. Another versatile wine for the dinner table – maybe duck with balsamic-roasted root vegetables? Alc 13.5%

Mullineux, Old Vines, Swartland, South Africa 2015 92 £22.25 Berry Bros & Rudd Grapes from 70-year-old Chenin Blanc vines represent 70% of the blend here, with the addition of Clairette, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Semillon. Ripe apricot, white peach and aromatic cloves come to the fore, and the fermentation and ageing in barrels add a creamy texture and fine complexity to the mid-palate, framed by limey acidity and a stony, mineral finish. Alc 13.5% ➢

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 73

25 UNDER £25 Lagrave-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France 2015 91 £20.60 Lay & Wheeler

Ca’Viola, Vilot, Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy 2016

This is the second wine of Château Latour-Martillac and great value in a year like 2015. A classic claret, showing rich blackcurrant fruit, lifted violet notes and firm tannins. Enjoy it now with a hearty piece of beef, but ideally hide it away to mature for a few years. Alc 14%

A little rustic but still very enjoyable drop that will go down nicely with your midweek spaghetti bolognese or Friday pizza. Expressively juicy red cherry and thyme notes on a smooth palate. The tannins are present but soft, wrapped around bright acidity. Alc 13.5%

Chateau Musar, Hochar Père & Fils, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2013 90 £17 Roberson

Nanny Goat Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand 2016 90 £19.99 Waitrose

A blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault. The wine spent one year in cement tanks followed by another in untoasted oak, of which 10% is new. Rich, intense forest fruits, cassis and espresso join soft tannins and sweet spices. Elegant and long. Alc 14%

Central Otago specialises in soft Pinots with cranberry and red cherry fruit, and this is a textbook example: light-bodied and juicy with dusty tannins. Hugely versatile at the dinner table – don’t be afraid to pair it with oily, meaty fish such as tuna or salmon. Alc 13.5%

Bodegas Riojanas, Monte Real de Familia, Rioja Cranza, Spain 2015 89 £11-£13 Baccanalia, D Byrne,

Les Dauphins, Grand Réserve, Côtes du Rhône Villages, France 2016 89 £8.99 Waitrose

Harrods, ND John, Randalls Winetime,

A reliable label for sub £10 easydrinking (often priced even lower on promotion). This juicy blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan is soft and supple, full of ripe bramble fruit and black pepper. One to enjoy on its own or with cottage pie. Alc 14%

Wineman, Yattenden, Wine-Man

A modern style of Rioja from a very historic bodega, founded in 1890. It’s very approachable, with a smooth, round palate of red and black fruit, rich creamy cocoa notes and cinnamon from the oak. Alc 14%


£14.20 Haynes Hanson & Clark

Viñalba, Malbec, Patagonia, Argentina 2015 89 £9.25 Morrisons

Blandy’s, Alvada 5 Year Old Rich Madeira, Portugal NV

From the cool, southern climes of Patagonia comes this simple but enjoyable Malbec from a reliable label and producer. The palate is smooth with creamy dark cherry fruit, sweet spices and soft tannins, along with a nice freshness from balancing acidity. Uncomplicated pleasure for the money. Alc 14%

£13.49 Amazon, Cambridge Wine

74 | F e b r u a r y 2 0 18 • D E C A N T E R

91 Merchants, Davy’s, Halifax Wine Co, The Whisky Exchange, Waitrose

Keep this in the fridge and serve chilled with hard and blue cheeses – you won’t look back! Expressive dried figs, dates and walnuts leap out of the glass. It’s lush but has a wonderful zip of acidity. Alc 19%



Domaine des Amphores, Les 7 Lieux, St-Joseph, Rhône, France 2015 92 £20 Oddbins Sourced from seven different plots farmed organically and biodynamically. Half the wine is aged in tanks and half in 600-litre oak barrels for 12 months, giving great complexity. Black cherry, blueberry and violets flood the dense palate, backed by tight tannins and earthy notes on the finish. It will be better in a few years, but if you can’t wait until then splash out and serve with a leg of lamb. Alc 13%


Northern Rhône 2015 Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Cornas are Syrah powerhouses, expressing themselves to their utmost in this dream vintage. Matt Walls compares and contrasts them Vienne


Matt Walls is the DWWA Regional Chair for Rhône and an awarded freelance wine writer and author










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River Rhône




The appellations in depth Côte-Rôtie may translate as ‘roasted slope’, but at 50km north of Hermitage it’s cooler than Cornas or Hermitage. These vertiginous terraces are built on granite, gneiss and schist and stretch across three communes. The wines have an ethereal and fragrant character, with red berries among the black fruits. The tendency towards over-oaking is diminishing and a more hands-off approach is gaining ground. It’s the largest of the three appellations, with twice the surface area of Cornas and twice as many producers. It’s the most inconsistent of the three, but at its best Côte-Rôtie reaches heights of breathtaking elegance and profound complexity. While Côte-Rôtie and Cornas lie on the sprawling west bank of the Rhône, Hermitage is to its east. Thanks to a sudden kink in the Rhône, the hill faces full south, protected from the rampaging north wind. Its western flank is granite, but only a quarter of the whole; the rest is alluvial deposits and some loess. With the clear majority of production in the hands of just six producers, it is stylistically and qualitatively more reliable than Côte-Rôtie, but less dynamic and diverse. Hermitage has an effortless majesty that sets it apart from other Syrahs. Twelve kilometres further south lies the baking corrugated granite amphitheatre of Cornas. Côte-Rôtie can include some Viognier in the blend and Hermitage produces some white wines; but Cornas is strictly Syrah. It has largely shaken off its reputation for rusticity, but Cornas retains a certain wildness – a wine red in tooth and claw. What this charismatic appellation lacks in elegance, it makes up for in character and impact. Some of the most exciting of the new generation of Rhône winemakers are from Cornas, often going down a natural or minimal-interventionist route. At its best it matches the quality of its more illustrious neighbours.






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Hot conditions produced a stunning vintage; impressive throughout, particularly in Côte-Rôtie.


A challenging vintage. Reds are lean in style and largely for early drinking.

2013 Long growing season and late harvest




Northern Rhône: know your vintages than 2015, but there are many excellent wines of freshness, power and precision. Hermitage crop reduced due to hail.




2016 Less consistent










led to some very good reds, especially Cornas and Côte-Rôtie. The best will age well.


Delightfully fresh, balanced and detailed wines, but not powerfully concentrated. Very good in Cornas and Hermitage; some Côte-Rôties lack substance.


A decent vintage despite a cool, wet July; lesser sites lack aromatic precision but the best terroirs exhibit good freshness.

Map: Maggie Nelson

THIS TIME LAST year I asked Philippe Guigal, the kingpin of Côte-Rôtie, if he could compare 2015 to another year. He had to reach back well beyond his own winemaking experience. ‘My dad would say 1961,’ Guigal replied, ‘and he also talks about the 1945s and the 1929s.’ Northern Rhône winemakers tend to be self-effacing when describing their wines, but while tasting the 2015s from barrel, superlatives flowed across the region. It was a hot year but not baking, dry but not parched, with only the youngest vines suffering water stress. With no pressure from poor weather or rot at harvest, winemakers could pick when they pleased. The best wines of Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Cornas will be long lived thanks to their freshness, concentration and energy.

Northern Rhône: the facts Total producers (2014) Cornas: 56; Hermitage: 37; Côte-Rôtie: 99 Surface area (2015) Cornas: 136ha; Hermitage: 136ha; Côte-Rôtie: 291ha Total production (2015) Cornas: 4,837hl; Hermitage: 5,340hl; Côte-Rôtie: 11,448hl Production (2015) Cornas: 100% red; Hermitage: 72% red; Côte-Rôtie: 100% red Permitted red wine grapes Cornas: Syrah only; Hermitage: Syrah (can include max 15% Marsanne/Roussanne); Côte-Rôtie: Syrah (can include max 20% Viognier) ➢

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 75


The results Our best Rhône tasting ever? Maybe, say our judges, who waxed lyrical about this line-up of powerful yet balanced Syrahs from a stellar vintage. Tina Gellie reports OUR JUDGES WERE effusive in their praise at what they termed ‘one of the best ever Decanter panel tastings’. ‘The standard was very high,’ said Matt Walls. ‘To taste these three big-hitting northern Rhône appellations from a homogenous, high-quality vintage like 2015 all together gives you a feel for how they compare stylistically and qualitatively.’ Simon Field MW agreed: ‘My marks justify the fact that this was one of the best, if not the best, tasting I’ve done here. We’re generally not generous, so to give so many top scores was incredible.’ Cornas – being the least glamorous but also least pricey of the trio – edged out Côte-Rôtie as the star. Its wines’ atypical ‘dynamic’ style was a winner for Devaney, who enjoyed the wines’ freshness and floral elegance which balanced the power of the vintage. ‘I was expecting that old-school style, but the winemakers showed great restraint.’ Walls felt the wines were more approachable in 2015, ‘combining that classic power, grunt and grip but also with the lush, plush fruitiness of the vintage. ‘Cornas can do scale and thunder like nobody else in the Rhône but also really good consistency. That shone out here.’ Field was ‘extremely impressed’ by Cornas, usually seen as ‘the third fiddle’ of this Rhône trio. ‘It’s not without reason it is seen as the happening appellation.’ ‘Côte-Rôtie is the celebrity region of the northern Rhône and it really did shine brightly,’ said Gearoid Devaney MS. ‘They are great wines that will give Decanter readers lots of pleasure for many years to come – they will easily age 10 years and up to 20 years.’ Field was also vocal: ‘They were wonderful. I’ve never given such consistently high scores. Most had modest levels of Viognier giving extra floral dimension and the best wines were those without too much oak or extraction, but still that glossy, showy character.’

‘We’re generally not generous, so to give so many top scores was incredible’ Simon Field MW

The scores 87 wines tasted Exceptional


Being twice as big as both Cornas and Hermitage, with lots of young vines, meant Côte-Rôtie was often a disappointment, said Walls. ‘But the standard was very good: the fruit was ripe and powerful, with fine tannins in abundance and good acidity.’ He felt you could broach them in 2019 and many could be cellared past 2030. Hermitage was the ‘trickiest’ from which to find stars in 2015, said Devaney. ‘Qualitatively, they were a great bunch of wines – big and dense, showing all the joys of a warm summer – but not as exciting as Cornas and Côte-Rôtie.’ Walls agreed that they were ‘monolithic’ but didn’t hit the peaks of quality he was hoping for. Field found the wines almost too potent and powerful. ‘What you want with Hermitage is an iron fist in a velvet glove, and we got lots of the iron. But it is pleasure deferred – broach them in the next three to five years and they will age well for two decades.’ Our experts felt winemaking across the board was of a high standard, with no issues around high alcohols, extraction or excessive faults such as reduction or brett which was once common. The only comment from Walls was of over-oaking, particularly in Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie: ‘Just because you have powerful fruit, that’s not a reason to age the wine endlessly in new oak.’ As these are small, high-quality appellations, the wines are not cheap. But they do represent value, said Devaney. ‘Hand-made wines of real character and quality from esteemed appellations that age for decades for £40 or £50 a bottle? That’s value!’


7 Highly Recommended

55 Recommended

23 Commended

1 Fair

0 Poor

0 Faulty


Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit their 2015 red wines from Côte-Rôtie, Cornas and Hermitage

The judges Gearoid Devaney MS

Simon Field MW

Matt Walls

Devaney is director of Flint Wines, an independent merchant based in London. He also consults to restaurants and hosts wine events. He was UK Sommelier of the Year 2008, and has been a Master Sommelier since 2009. Devaney has worked at London’s Capital Hotel, Tom Aikens and L’Oranger, as well as the three-Michelin starred Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.

Field joined merchant Berry Bros & Rudd in 1998, having spent several years as a chartered accountant in the City of London. He is responsible for purchasing wines from the Rhône among many others, and gained his Master of Wine qualification in October 2002.

Walls is Regional Chair for Rhône at the Decanter World Wine Awards. He is an award-winning freelance wine writer, author and blogger who regularly contributes to Decanter. He also helps restaurants develop their wine lists, trains staff and judges wine competitions.

76 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R


Exceptional 98–100pts biodynamic practices. These changes have put Ferraton Père & Fils and winemaker Damien Brisset in the spotlight. Les Grands Mûriers is one of three Cornas wines produced. The vines are grown mainly on decomposed granite soils with the rest on clay and limestone.

Exceptional 98 points

Ferraton Père & Fils, Les Grands Mûriers, Cornas

Decanter average score: 98/100pts Individual judges’ scores: Gearoid Devaney MS 98 Simon Field MW 98 Matt Walls 98

£35-£40.50 Amathus Drinks, Cambridge Wine Merchants Ferraton Père & Fils was established in 1946 by Jean Orëns Ferraton. His son, Michel, continued his work and added further to the range of wines. Today, Ferraton Père & Fils produces a huge range of Rhône wines from Hermitage to St-Péray, with added help from long-time friend Michel Chapoutier who, in 1998, introduced new appellations to the business, as well as creating a plot-selection approach and

Gearoid Devaney MS A classic Cornas that is brimming with ripe fruit and delicious spices. There is a beguiling blood-red meat and iron element here, and great energy and tension from the tannins. It needs time, but the finish is long. Simon Field MW A traditional wine that is rigorous and magnificently unapproachable at present. It is tannic, firm and long; I am so pleased that this style still persists and flourishes – bravo! Matt Walls Dense, herbal and oaky aromatics unfold elegantly onto a full-bodied, powerful and lush palate. It is full of plush fruit and muscular, thunderous power in an old-school style. There is a lot to enjoy here all the way to a long finish lengthened by fine tannins and piercing acidity. Drink 2022-2034 Alcohol 13.5%

Outstanding 95–97pts

Xavier Gerard, Côte-Rôtie 97 GD 96 SF 98 MW 96 Benjamin & David Duclaux, La Germine, Côte-Rôtie 95 GD 95 SF 95 MW 95 £40 A&B Vintners, Cambridge Wine Merchants In 2013, Xavier Gerard’s father – who used to be a part-time winemaker, grower and Crédit-Agricole employee – passed his vines to his son. Xavier spent the decade before that learning the trade at home, as well as travelling extensively, getting experience by working at other wineries. Now in his 30s, he is producing some great wines from his excellent parcels of fruit: Terroir du Mollard giving a mineral character, and those north of Ampuis giving a peppery character to the blend.

£45-£47.50 Cambridge Wine Merchants, Winegrowers Direct

GD Immediate, ripe forest berry fruits spring from the glass and unfurl onto a rich palate with good concentration and smooth tannins. It is complex and glossy yet elegant with a fresh finish.

GD Initial sweet cherry fruit aromas are exaggerated on the ripe and fragrant palate. There is a glossy attack followed by smooth tannins, layers of complexity and a classy, elegant finish.

SF Classicism in every sense: gently reticent at first then a linear palate emerges, garlanded by red fruit and finely powdered tannins. There is quite an assertive undertow presaging an illustrious evolution.

SF A delightful Viognier lift plus a pure berry fruit character. There are hints of flint and peach stone too. This is quite a broad-brush approach, but successfully rendered.

MW Just 4% Viognier, but it makes itself known on the nose with a touch of stone fruit among the berries. Soft, ripe, yielding palate, but also concentrated and long, with fine tannins and brisk acidity leading to a long finish. Intense yet easygoing style – very easy to love.

MW Restrained berries on the nose, yet a good expression on the palate of intense fresh berry fruit, bright acidity and very fine tannins. This will take some time to come round, but will be good in time as there is a lovely sense of harmony and finesse.

Drink 2019-2028 Alc 14%

Drink 2020-2028 Alc 13% ➢

Benjamin & David Duclaux’s great grandfather bought vineyard land in Côte-Rôtie in 1928, further developed by their father, Edmond Duclaux. Today the brothers have 5.8ha, located on the steep slopes of Tupin and Semons in the southern part of Côte-Rôtie. La Germine is the main cuvée, comprising 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier. Since 2014, the brothers have also started making a Condrieu.


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Outstanding (continued) 95–97pts

95 GD 95 SF 95 MW 95

Domaine de Rosiers, Drevon, Côte-Rôtie 95 GD 95 SF 95 MW 95

£40 Berkmann Wine Cellars, Vin Cognito


Delas Frères was founded in 1835 and merged with Champagne Deutz in 1977. In 1993, both were absorbed by Louis Roederer which now owns this 30ha estate, encompassing vineyards in Hermitage, CrozesHermitage and St-Joseph. Chante Perdrix is farmed by a partner grower, highlighting the quality fruit available to them. This singleparcel wine, made by Jacques Grange and Claire Darnaud-McKerrow has spent 12 to 14 months in oak barrels. 15,000 bottles are made.

This 8ha estate was set up by André Drevon in 1976. In 1980, Louis Drevon teamed up with his father to create the name, Domaine de Rosiers, named after the Rozier site where most of the vineyard is located, mainly on mica-schist soil, giving its unique character and flavour profile. Some 7.8ha focuses on Côte-Rôtie, while the remainder provides the fruit for its Condrieu wines.

Delas, Chante Perdrix, Cornas

GD Abounding with dark fruits, roses and spicy nuances, this is an intense style that shows fine ripe tannins and a solid middle. Great acidity and a mineral streak carry it onto a long finish. SF Full of liquorice and violet aromas. In the mouth there are elegant tannins and firm acidity. Modern, yes, but also respectful of its provenance and granitic reputation.

GD Ripe black cherry and floral aromas. The palate is concentrated and intense with black fruits and juicy tannins giving a long, balanced finish. SF Polished and modern, the palate wears the gloss cleverly however. Summer pudding fruit and crisp acidity underwrite an extremely competent piece of work.

MW Liquorice, tarragon and mineral black fruits. Full bodied, juicy and ripe with balancing acidity. Lots of life and a lifted glint on the finish.

MW A meaty, earthy style already showing potential complexity. The full-bodied, intense palate is concentrated but not over-extracted. The oak does show through for now but this should settle in time, as the fruit is intense and the finish very long.

Drink 2019-2029 Alc 14%

Drink 2020-2029 Alc 14%

Domaine Eric & Joël Durand, Empreintes, Cornas 95 GD 95 SF 96 MW 95

François & Fils, Côte-Rôtie

£32.95 (2013) Berry Bros & Rudd

£37.55-£44.99 Askew Wines, Exel Wines, Haw Wines, Liberty Wines, Scarlet

Brothers Eric and Joël Durand started focusing on their family business in the 1990s and have built up an impressive reputation for their red wines in particular. The winery is in Châteaubourg, in the Ardèche, and covers 20ha in Cornas, St-Peray, St-Joseph and Collines Rhodaniennes. Empreintes has been aged in oak barrels for 12 months. GD Although this may need time to show its true colours, it is exuding sweet dark berry fruits and lifted acidity. Fresh tannins give grip to this bright and textured wine. SF There is a magnificent juxtaposition of ripe black fruit, edgy structure and firm balancing acidity alongside some rigorous tannins. MW Lush, full and flowing with liquorice and blackberry flavours, this is showing generous fruit and piercing acidity. It is long and concentrated with very fine tannins. Drink 2019-2028 Alc 13.5%

95 GD 95 SF 95 MW 95 Wines, The Secret Cellar

With only 4ha of vines, the François family doesn’t make much CôteRôtie. In fact, its main business is making farmhouse cheeses from its herd of 30 cows. The family bottled its first wine in 1991 and has since maintained very high standards, only using grapes from three southfacing slopes rich in mica-schist soil, suitable for the 30-year-old vines. This wine has been aged for 18 months in 225-litre and 400-litre barrels. GD There is a lot of pleasure here from ripe red fruit, smooth and ripe tannins, great harmony and lovely texture. SF Charming aromas of violets and summer pudding. The palate is still dominated by oak, but fruit comes in on the finish with a saline rigour. MW Soft and enticing ripe blackberry aromas. The palate is full-bodied and rich in fruit with good depth. A touch on the extracted side, but it ends fresh and juicy with a long finish. Drink 2019-2027 Alc 13.5%

78 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R


Outstanding (continued) 95–97pts which make them unique, focusing on the terroir first and foremost. Today Michel Tardieu runs the business on his own. GD A high-octane Cornas bursting with ripe black fruit and an intense, rich mid-palate with toasty oak and generosity. The tannins are tight and elegant; this is very classy. SF The nose and palate are loaded with cassis, blueberry and dark sooty tannins. This is very traditional and worthy of a fine rib-eye steak, maybe 10 years down the line!

Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes, Cornas 95 GD 95 SF 95 MW 95 £46 Corney & Barrow, Millésima, Vin Cognito

MW Very intense, old-school Cornas aromas of polished wood, stems and a touch of meat stock. Full and generous in the mouth, but also tannic and savoury. Long and texturally very intense – you could scale this like a climbing wall. All the grunt you could want from a Cornas.

This venture was set up in 1996 between Michel Tardieu, a winemaker from Provence, and Dominique Laurent, a pastry chef and former Burgundian winemaker, to focus on terroir-specific wines. TardieuLaurent is a négociant so buys in wine, rather than grapes, from winemakers all over the Rhône. It’s this blending of wines in oak casks

Drink 2021-2031 Alc 13.5%

Highly Recommended 90–94pts

Dauvergne Ranvier, Vin Rare, Côte-Rôtie 94 GD 94 SF 95 MW 93 £35 Exel Wines

Fayolle Fils & Fille, Les Dionnières, Hermitage

This has alluring, generous lifted aromatics – waves of stewed plums and damsons, with a prune hint underneath. The palate is sweet and full with red cherry brightness, ripe juicy tannins and intense acidity. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 13.5%

POA Thorman Hunt

Vintners, Goedhuis, Lay & Wheeler

There are fig and plum tones nestled among the blackberries here, with a pleasant flash of marzipan. Quite a modern style, this is bristling with dark fruit potential and muscular tannins. Grippy, strong stuff that is very classy. Drink 2022-2032 Alc 14%

Herbal bitters, roses and black cherries dominate this serious, tarry wine. It is powerful and has bags of energy while also being bright from refreshing acidity. Serrated tannins and sharp minerals limber up to a great saline finish. Drink 2020-2028 Alc 14%

Cave de Tain, Epsilon, Hermitage

Delas, Domaine des Tourettes, Hermitage 93 GD 95 SF 91 MW 92 £85 Berkmann Wine Cellars

Domaine Mucyn, Aquilon, Cornas 93 GD 94 SF 92 MW 94 £30 Tanners

A roasted, intense, searching nose cascades into a big-boned beast that is full of spiced oak and an earthy mineral undertone. The oak is glossy and the fruit just discernible behind its monumental core. This does not lack for potential. Drink 2021-2033 Alc 14%

Modern but without missing its provenance, this wine is full, ripe and generous. There is an inherent savoury character backed up by leather, meat and fresh earth. A thick lattice of ripe tannins gives a sinewy, robust structure. Drink 2021-2032 Alc 13.5% ➢

93 GD 92 SF 95 MW 93

POA Boutinot A benchmark Hermitage: the deep, herbal Szechuan pepper and sandalwood tones that mingle with lush blackberry fruit show this really is the iron fist in the velvet glove. A concentrated, almost explosive example with a mineral seam running into the finish. Drink 2022-2033 Alc 13.5%

94 GD 94 SF 92 MW 95

Alain Voge, Les Vieilles Vignes, Cornas 93 GD 94 SF 92 MW 94 POA Berry Bros & Rudd, Clarion Wines, Decorum


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Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts

Yves Cuilleron, Madinière, Côte-Rôtie 93 GD 95 SF 92 MW 93 £39.17-£47.50 Enotria & Coe, Exel Wines, Fields

Benjamin & David Duclaux, Maison-Rouge, Côte-Rôtie

Morris & Verdin, Great Western Wine, Millésima

£60-£65 Vinetrail, Winegrowers Direct

A confident, expressive, peacock-like style brimming with red cherries, spices and fresh herbs. It has lots of texture, personality and finesse on the finish that suggests it will improve with time. Drink 2019-2029 Alc 13.5%

An elegant, medium-bodied, unforced wine of real finesse that displays bright raspberries underpinned by cloves, with juicy tannins holding it in a poised equilibrium with a fine, mineral finish. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 13%

Christophe Pichon, Promesse, Côte-Rôtie 92 GD 93 SF 90 MW 92 £36.95 (2012) Berry Bros & Rudd

Domaine Eric & Joël Durand, Confidence, Cornas

Roasted aromas pervade the nose, bringing out a smoky bacon character that lies underneath sweet black forest fruit. Yellow spices also show through the oaky grip and keen acidity. Drink 2021-2025 Alc 13%

POA Berry Bros & Rudd

Ferraton Père & Fils, Montmain, Côte-Rôtie 92 GD 92 SF 89 MW 94 £43.50-£50 Davys, Laithwaite’s

Les Vins de Vienne, Les Grandes Places, Côte-Rôtie

Fresh and peppery aromas flow onto a palate still in the grip of assertive oak. Dried fruit and griotte cherries come through in the mouth and the long finish fans out pleasantly. Drink 2020-2028 Alc 14%

£39 Inverarity Morton

Matthieu Barret, Domaine du Coulet, Billes Noires, Cornas

Tardieu-Laurent, Hermitage

92 GD 92 SF 89 MW 95

POA Corney & Barrow

£52 Justerini & Brooks

In the company of big, austere beasts, this stands out for the integrity of its fruit character, the finely balanced tannins, firm acidity and the length on the palate. A little gentle lift goes a long way! Drink 2022-2032 Alc 13.5%

A captivating nose gives a different aromatic register here: bright blueberries, black cherry, vanilla and a touch of reduction. Accessible, poised and lifted with ample ripe tannins. Interesting and fun. Drink 2019-2030 Alc 13%

92 GD 91 SF 91 MW 93

92 GD 93 SF 93 MW 90 A herbal style with restrained aromatics but an incredibly ripe, brooding palate of black fruit and spice. The large frame and firm tannins ensure a fine future. Drink 2020-2028 Alc 14%

92 GD 93 SF 90 MW 92 Plum, cherry, sage, tarragon and liquorice notes. Raw and powerful, its self-confidence subsumed by the contradictions of youth: grippy tannins, piercing acidity and very extracted. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 13.5%

92 GD 89 SF 92 MW 94

8 0 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Cave de Tain, Grand Classique, Hermitage 92 GD 92 SF 92 MW 92 £50 Boutinot Cassis coalesces with liquorice and aniseed on the nose and flows onto a plush cherry fruit palate. Youthful with an uncompromisingly tannic structure, piercing acidity and a finely etched savoury undertow. This will need time to come alive. Drink 2023-2033 Alc 13.5%

Domaine Lionnet, Terre Brûlée, Cornas 92 GD 92 SF 91 MW 94 POA OW Loeb Closed on the nose, but the palate structure is big-boned and fiercely tannic, with lifted black cherry and plum elements. It is a prowling panther, deep and dense with grippy tannins and a mineral edge. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 14%

M Chapoutier, Les Becasses, Côte-Rôtie 92 GD 92 SF 89 MW 94 £48.33-£58.50 Mentzendorff, Millésima Handsome berry fruits hang in suspension around the nose, while high-toned oak spice makes itself present. There are some underlying fresh herbs and firm, integrated tannins, making this attractive if a little four-square. Drink 2019-2027 Alc 13.5%

Clusel-Roch, Classique, Côte-Rôtie 91 GD 91 SF 89 MW 94 £45.95-£46.95 Davys, Goedhuis, Lea & Sandeman

Enticing blackberry, plum and star anise dance around the nose, while in the mouth it is ripe and flowing. Slightly over-extracted perhaps, but a good intensity of fruit and ripe tannins. Drink 2019-2028 Alc 13.5%


Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts

Delas, Seigneur de Maugiron, Côte-Rôtie 91 GD 93 SF 90 MW 91 £93 Berkmann Wine Cellars

Domaine de Remizières, Cuvée Emilie, Hermitage

The dense inky hue reflects the intensity of the black cherry and bramble fruit. It is a flashy style with assertive oak. The palate is a touch volatile, but the firm tannins and long finish are in balance. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 14.5%

POA Crump Richmond Shaw, Fine & Rare

Domaine Pichat, Champon’s, Côte-Rôtie 91 GD 90 SF 89 MW 93 £37.50-£41.99 Champagnes & Châteaux, Stone

Gabriel Meffre, Laurus, Hermitage 91 GD 92 SF 88 MW 92 N/A UK

J Denuzière, Cornas

Vine & Sun

Toasty and roasted aromas redolent of woodsmoke and coffee beans plus a flicker of tar and sous-bois. A little unforgiving now perhaps, but there is lots to enjoy about this driven style. Drink 2020-2029 Alc 13%

Playful and young, this Cornas is showing herbal blackcurrants and fresh red cherries alongside a slight reduced note. Classic grainy savoury tannins give that beguiling wild fruit grip. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13%

N/A UK +33 4 74 59 50 33

Les Vins de Vienne, Les Barcillants, Cornas 91 GD 91 SF 93 MW 88 £31 Inverarity Morton

M Chapoutier, L’Ermite, Hermitage 91 GD 91 SF 90 MW 92 £300 Mentzendorff

Savoury reduction on the nose dissipates into bright florals and densely packed fruit. It is quite drying and austere at present but has a roasted element which works well with the fruit and shows potential. Drink 2023-2034 Alc 13%

Wild strawberry aspects blend with sweet oak and crunchy tannins to show that everything has been correctly judged, while that dark peppery heart of the appellation – the heart of darkness – has certainly not been overlooked. Drink 2019-2026 Alc 14%

Restrained and gently herbal on the nose for now, this shows a bright, wild fruit character with smooth tannins and bracing acidity that shows an immense prospect to develop and soften over the next two decades. Drink 2022-2031 Alc 14%

Maison Les Alexandrins, Cornas

Maison Les Alexandrins, Côte-Rôtie 91 GD 89 SF 93 MW 90 £40.75-£44.99 Exel Wines, Liberty Wines

Matthieu Barret, Domaine du Coulet, Brise Cailloux, Cornas

A more earthy style with authentic blackberry fruit and a floral lift. The underlying oak works well in support. There is lots to enjoy here: freshness behind the generous ripe fruit, as well as a gentle lick of aniseed and liquorice. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 13.5%

£32 Justerini & Brooks

Dense cassis and blackberries alongside pink peppercorns and dried herbs. The tannins are very ripe and the acidity fresh and lively. Long, balanced finish. Drink 2020-2029 Alc 13.5%

J Denuzière, Hermitage 91 GD 92 SF 90 MW 92

91 GD 93 SF 90 MW 91

£42 Liberty Wines A lighter style of Cornas with fine tannins and a mineral seam. Underneath the vibrant fruit there is an intriguing leathery, herbal character which makes for an interesting sip with fine grip. Drink 2019-2026 Alc 13.5%

Domaine Eric & Joël Durand, Prémices, Cornas 91 GD 92 SF 92 MW 89 POA Berry Bros & Rudd

91 GD 92 SF 88 MW 94

A generous attack of herbal blackberries and a fruit basket of indulgence. Stony and mineral elements come through, then a weighty mid-palate draws us to the poised, precise and finely etched finish. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 13.5%

Full and flowing violets, roses, cassis and a savoury woodsmoke edge. There is a serious weight – huge and imposing and the mouthfeel almost overwhelming – but it has serious regal class. Drink 2021-2029 Alc 14.5%

91 GD 90 SF 93 MW 91

N/A UK +33 4 74 59 50 33

91 GD 88 SF 92 MW 93 Freshly crushed fruits of the forest twinned with an expressive peppery note. Garrigue and spice permeate throughout the lovely refined palate and make for an easy-to-love, easygoing style. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13% ➢ D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 81


Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts

Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Domaine de St-Pierre, Cornas

Pic & Chapoutier, Cornas

91 GD 91 SF 89 MW 92


£49 Bibendum-PLB

A flash of reduction on the nose is followed by spicy black fruits on a harmonious palate. The tannins are muscular and usher us on to a cool, mineral finish. A chiselled style with texture and relief. Drink 2022-2033 Alc 14%

Quite raw at present, but the intensity of cassis holds its own against the concentrated oak. The acidity is high, supported by surging, fine yet sinewy tannins, leading to a very long finish. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 14%

91 GD 91 SF 88 MW 94

‘Côte-Rôtie is the celebrity region of the northern Rhône and it really did shine brightly’

Yann Chave, Hermitage 91 GD 93 SF 91 MW 90

£55 Averys, D Byrne & Co, Laithwaite’s, Stone Vine &

Gearoid Devaney MS

Sun, The Vineking, The Wright Wine Co

The fruit and oak balance is well judged here, with a scattering of herbal tones, star anise and sandalwood. Smooth, fine tannins support the whole. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 13.5%

Vidal-Fleury, La Chatillonne, Côte Blonde, Côte-Rôtie 91 GD 91 SF 93 MW 89

£64.99 Fine & Rare, Louis Latour Agencies Impressive from every angle, there is oak, flowers and berries all in evidence here. Jasmine notes come through from the Viognier and the acidity is naturally balancing the whole package. Drink 2019-2028 Alc 13.5%

Alain Voge, Les Chailles, Cornas 90 GD 92 SF 88 MW 90

POA Berry Bros & Rudd, Lay & Wheeler Classically Cornas, this has a very fine palate of ripe red fruits, well-worked oak and a rich, pleasing texture. There is a touch of volatile acidity but this is still yielding and well balanced. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 13.5%

Christophe Pichon, La Comtesse en Côte Blonde, Côte-Rôtie

Domaine Clape, Cornas 90 GD 91 SF 89 MW 90

Domaine de Corps de Loup, Corps de Loup, Côte-Rôtie

90 GD 89 SF 89 MW 92

POA Yapp Bros

90 GD 94 SF 87 MW 88


Aromas of old polished wood, liquorice and cherry flitter through the glass. There is a savoury charcuterie note underneath the blueberry fruit. It is raw and old-school in style but an authentically Cornas expression of fruit. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 13%


Domaine du Colombier, Hermitage 90 GD 93 SF 90 MW 88 £56 (2012) Berry Bros & Rudd

Domaine Georges Vernay, Blonde du Seigneur, Côte-Rôtie

Bags of ripe cassis fly out of the glass and lead onto a dense almost impenetrable palate with an austere tannic structure that will certainly be worth looking at in a decade or so. Drink 2022-2030 Alc 13.5%

£50.83 A&B Vintners, Millésima

Seductive blackberries and sous-bois swirling together with clove and black pepper. There is a hint of reduction but it is very approachable – on the edge of confected, but unfailingly delicious. Drink 2020-2028 Alc 13%

Domaine de Corps de Loup, Paradis, Côte-Rôtie 90 GD 92 SF 90 MW 89

N/A UK A curious nose that is a melange of cassis, oak and engine fuel leads graciously onto a palate with a fascinating peppery grip and herbal authority. This may be a Marmite wine, but it is still very riveting. Drink 2019-2026 Alc 13%

82 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

A little mute at present, but the ripe black fruit and spiced oak comes through eventually. The charmingly textured palate flows harmoniously through to the finish, though a little oak-heavy. Drink 2019-2026 Alc 13%

90 GD 90 SF 88 MW 93 Lifted cherry and raspberry intermingle with damson and florals that are leaning towards the confected side. Viognier has brought perfumed softness but there’s still brisk acidity and fine tannins. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 12.5%


Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts

Domaine Mouton, Côte-Rôtie 90 GD 90 SF 91 MW 89

Domaine Mouton, Maison Rouge, Côte-Rôtie

Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet, Hermitage

£40 (2014) Berry Bros & Rudd

90 GD 89 SF 92 MW 90

90 GD 92 SF 89 MW 90

POA Berry Bros & Rudd

POA Dreyfus Ashby, H2Vin

Polished black cherries and sweet spices show a correct and upstanding wine. Quite old school, with plenty of pedigree and a nicely eloquent mineral finish. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 13.5%

A little closed on the nose, but the palate shows fine savouriness opening out to floral tones and sweet fruit with some astringent tannins at the end. Drink 2020-2026 Alc 14%

A potent, heady Syrah that is ripe and jammy yet underneath lurks real purity and deliciously soft yet grippy tannins. Elegant, if not terribly complex. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14%

Ferraton Père & Fils, Les Miaux, Hermitage 90 GD 92 SF 88 MW 90 £35-£41.95 Davys, Laithwaite’s An explosion of menthol and sandalwood on the nose unfolds onto a full, plush and silky palate with markedly high acidity. It is a powerful number, with a drying savoury note at the back. Drink 2019-2028 Alc 14%

‘Cornas can do scale and thunder like nobody else in the Rhône but also really good consistency. That shone out here’

Galuval, Initiation, Cornas 90 GD 90 SF 89 MW 92

N/A UK Sweet forest fruits are underpinned by a hint of furniture polish with a menthol liquorice follow through. There is a touch of volatile acidity but the tannins are fine and flow to a mineral finish. Drink 2019-2029 Alc 13.5%

Matt Walls

90 GD 88 SF 92 MW 89

Jean-Claude & Nicolas Fayolle, Les Dionnières, Hermitage

N/A UK +33 4 74 59 50 33

90 GD 90 SF 89 MW 92

A big beast of monumental structure displaying clove, cola and lovely intensity of fruit. The oak is present through intense spices which gives great authority on the finish. Drink 2020-2028 Alc 13.5%

N/A UK +33 4 75 03 38 33 A fresher, more aromatic style than most but it still has a broad, opulent element to it through ripe blackcurrants, intense spices and young grippy tannins. Drink 2021-2031 Alc 13.5%

A restrained nose leads to an unexpected ripeness on the palate, brimming with violets and blueberries in a simple, approachable style with a soft tannic profile. Drink 20192025 Alc 13.5%

Jean-Luc Colombo, Terres Brulées, Cornas 90 GD 88 SF 91 MW 90 £45.90 Hatch Mansfield, Jolly Vintners, Waitrose

M Chapoutier, Les Arènes, Cornas 90 GD 93 SF 88 MW 89 £35 Mentzendorff

Maison Ogier, La Serine, Côte-Rôtie 90 GD 92 SF 89 MW 89 £45 Montrachet Fine Wines

There is a robust oak influence here and a touch of volatile acidity, but then a generous savoury note and a beguiling whisper of sweetness at the back with a linear, seductive finish. Drink 2019-2027 Alc 13.5%

A classic example, full of bright red fruit, tar and roses lifted by a mineral edge and some fine, ripe tannins. A harmonious and long wine. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 13.5%

Straightforward spicy fruit grows in the glass to reveal liquorice, herbs and a tight structure. The sprightly tannins give some good grip. Drink 2019-2023 Alc 13.5% ➢

J Denuzière, Côte-Rôtie

Jean-Luc Colombo, Pied la Vigne, Cornas 90 GD 93 SF 89 MW 88 £37.65 Hatch Mansfield, Luvians

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 8 3


Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts

Rémi Niero, Vires de Serine, Côte-Rôtie 90 GD 90 SF 93 MW 87 £38 Georges Barbier Full, rich, oaky style, yet the sheer quality of the fruit shines through and the battle between intense fruit, oak spice and tannins will have a favourable outcome. Drink 2020-2029 Alc 13.5%

Stéphane Robert, Domaine du Tunnel, Cornas 90 GD 92 SF 91 MW 87 £35 Averys, D Byrne & Co, Hedonism, Laithwaites,

Vidal-Fleury, Brune et Blonde, Côte-Rôtie 90 GD 91 SF 89 MW 89 £49.99 Fine & Rare, Louis Latour Agencies, North &

Mr Wheeler, The Vineking

South Wines

A remarkably red-fruited style, full of raspberries and strawberries that fan out into spices and mineral tones. With zippy acidity, the palate has a broad, seductive appeal that is subtle in its incantation but persuasive in its guile. Drink 2019-2025 Alc 13.5%

A forthcoming, supremely elegant wine that is bursting with dark berry fruits studded with cloves. A touch over-extracted perhaps but enjoyable nonetheless. Drink 2019-2026 Alc 13.5%

Recommended 86–89pts Wine

Score GD



Tasting note


Aurélien Chatagnier, Cornas




Heather, cassis and stewed fruit; the balance is such that one is confident to predict a secure future, many years down the line. A style which centres on fruit where some peppery scents provide lift.

Benjamin & David Duclaux,






La Chana, Côte-Rôtie Clusel-Roch, Les Grandes





Places, Côte-Rôtie Dauvergne Ranvier, Face Sud,





Côte-Rôtie Domaine Courbis,





13.5% 20202028


Justerini & Brooks, Lea & Sandeman

tannic grip overwhelms a little, but give it time and it will blossom. Modern and powerful – there is evident oak pushing through the fruit as well




Matthew Clark




Hallgarten, Strictly Wine

A reticent nose is showing some jolly cherry and raspberry characters. The

Tight and a little reduced, but there is no lack of concentration, with simple


Bon Coeur, Oddbins





Hints of vanilla are immediately evident, suggesting powerful oak. This gives 14%


Dreyfus Ashby


Fields Morris & Verdin, H2Vin

a spicy, glossy note over the firm tannins.





A youthful wine that is showing oaky, balsamic notes beneath the forest berries. The brisk acidity smooths out the resinous, intense palate.



Aromatic, stemmy style with red fruits on the nose. There is piercing

12.5% 20192027 raspberry acidity and a mineral seam; a wine for lovers of texture and tannin.







Crushed peppercorns and bacon fat aromas. There is a lovely intensity and




H2Vin, Millésima




13.5% 20202029


The Oxford Wine Co, Vine Trail

red-berry vibrancy, suggesting this will be a winner with time.





Some considerable oak spice but it has the fruit to match. A pleasant bluefruit core, high acidity and fine tannins will ensure development.





An generous style of Cornas that has a touch of volatile acidity behind a





Black Forest gateau springs to mind, with stony, inky notes at the back. Bags 13.5% 20202030 of acidity and new oak as well as dusty minerality on the finish.


Haslemere Wine Merchants, Hatch Mansfield, Hedonism, Millésima, WoodWinters





A little reduced at first, but the palate is plush and full of red cherries. There is 14%




Corney & Barrow

Bleue, Hermitage Tardieu-Laurent, Côte-Rôtie

13.5% 20192028


Les Ruchets, Cornas Paul Jaboulet Aîné, La Maison



sooty, sweet oak note. It is tannic and tough but well-seasoned and spicy.

Jean-Luc Colombo,

Anthony Byrne

Deep and opaque in the glass, this is all about black fruit, black olives, aniseed 13.5% 20212032 and cassis. It is moving towards being over-extracted and tannic.

Côte-Rôtie Guillaume Gilles, Cornas




Blanc, Côte-Rôtie Gabriel Meffre, Laurus,



Cornas François Villard, Le Gallet

+33 4 74 31 75 53


Côte-Rôtie François Villard, Jouvet,



Jaboulet, Cornas Domaine Pierre Gaillard,

13.5% 20192029

dark fruits, spices and fine balancing tannins.

Les Murettes, Cornas Domaine Philippe & Vincent


as pepper and black olive elements.

Champelrose, Cornas Domaine Michelas St-Jemms,


Slightly chalky tannins, but a nicely eloquent finish.


a youthful energy here but it is quite lean.





Slightly oxidative style, with flowing black fruit and a full-bodied palate that leads to some drying tannins on the finish.

8 4 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R


13.5% 20202034


Recommended (continued) 86–89pts


Score GD



Tasting note


Aurélien Chatagnier,




Intense cassis and blackcurrant leaf on the nose, redolent of jammy wine


Côte-Rôtie Clusel-Roch, Viallière,

gums. A little atypical but a drinkable style.


Lea & Sandeman





Attractive if slightly loose-knit style, with cassis and blueberries floating on











top of olive tapenade and balsamic tones.





Rich and assertive, yet the mid-palate is a touch hollow, the tribulations of youth perhaps? Grippy tannins and spiced plums follow through to the end.





Smoky on the nose with some prominent clove oak too. Fulsome, sweet crushed raspberries on the palate with a glossy finish.





A plush, commercial style that is correct and polished. Sweet and open on the 13.5% 20192025 palate with a crisp, slightly drying tannic finish.







Slightly austere tannins behind a veil of cassis and dark fruit, but it is an

Cornas Le Plan des Moines,

+33 4 74 31 75 53

Mostly black cherries and spices on the nose and palate, the ensemble being a 13.5% 20202027 little hesitant but elegant all the same.

Cornas Christophe Pichon, Allégorie,



Les Pierrelles, Côte-Rôtie Cave de Tain, Grand Classique,

13.5% 20192028


Cœur de Rose, Côte-Rôtie Paul Jaboulet Aîné,



Côte-Rôtie Domaine de Rosiers,



Côte-Rôtie Domaine de Rosiers, Besset,





Signs of oxidation alongside a distinct pepperiness. Bright red cherries come 13%



accessible style with a sweet oaky countenance.




Les Serines, Côte-Rôtie


through and it is well made, perhaps lacking the magic of the vintage.

Commended 83-85pts

Next month’s panel tastings Mature red Rioja (2011 and older) and Galician whites

Q Vidal-Fleury, Cornas 84, 13%, 2018-2021, £38.99 Louis Latour Agencies

My top three Gearoid Devaney MS

My top three Simon Field MW

My top three Matt Walls

Q Benjamin & David Duclaux, La Germine, Côte-Rôtie A wonderful

Q Ferraton Père & Fils, Les Grands Mûriers, Cornas 2015 I’ve long

Q Ferraton Père & Fils, Les Grands Mûriers, Cornas 2015 Ferraton has

wine, from a great estate that I have been following since a recommendation from the great Rhône expert John LivingstoneLearmonth. Bright cherry, violets and spices plus Viognier lift on a rich and glossy palate with plenty of mineral bite. Very classy. 95 Drink 2020-2028

admired Damien Brisset’s ability to coax the heart and soul from an appellation. Here he has captured the raw, energetic core of Cornas, while adding an ethereal lift. Extraordinary! 98 Drink 2022-2034

some real gems in its range, particularly in Hermitage, but this Cornas showed terrifically well on the day: concentrated, powerful and traditional in style, with characteristically dramatic thunder and energy. 98 Drink 2022-2034

Q Yves Cuilleron, La Madinière, Côte-Rôtie I’ve loved Cuilleron’s wines since my time as a young sommelier at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. This is open and giving, with sleek, dark fruit, oak spice and smooth tannins. Lots to enjoy now but will be even better with cellaring and a piece of venison. 95 Drink 2019-2029

Q Alain Voge, Les Vieilles Vignes, Cornas A classic from start to finish, from the granite slopes of Les Mazards. Cornas is often forgotten but shouldn’t be, especially not on the evidence of this tasting. Here, the palate is powerful and intense, with fine tannins, fresh acidity and a long finish. 94 Drink 2020-2028

Q Xavier Gerard, Côte-Rôtie 2015 A new name to me and a great wine. Côte-Rôtie is often seen as feminine, and here the 4% Viognier no doubt has its part to play but it is the magisterial elegance and profundity of the Syrah which takes the breath away. 98 Drink 2019-2028

Q Domaine Eric & Joël Durand, Empreintes, Cornas 2015 These energetic brothers are lucky enough to have some old parcels in the famous Chaillot lieu-dit, and the sheer quality of the fruit – as always chez Durand – is given a magnificently eloquent expression in this great vintage. 96 Drink 2019-2028

Q Xavier Gerard, Côte-Rôtie 2015 It’s great to see this talented winemaker do so well. He has some excellent terroir, including La Viallière and La Landonne, and the quality is clear to see. A superbly drinkable wine of impeccable balance and elegance. 96 Drink 2019-2028

Q Benjamin & David Duclaux, La Germine, Côte-Rôtie 2015 David Duclaux has serious winemaking talent. His wines are thoughtful and savoury in style, but with great textural finesse. This won’t be ready for a while, but it’ll be worth the wait. 95 Drink 2020-2028

NB: the tasters’ top wines are not necessarily their top-scoring, rather those which, on learning the wines’ identity, they feel are the most notable given their provenance, price or other factors

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 85

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New Zealand Chardonnay It’s all a question of balance, says Rebecca Gibb MW. Chardonnay may have been out of the NZ spotlight of late, but the wines are enjoying a revival of interest North Cape

New Zealand wine regions 1 Auckland/Northland 2 Waikato 3 Bay of Plenty 4 Gisborne 5 Hawke’s Bay 6 Wairarapa 7 Nelson 8 Marlborough 9 Canterbury 10 Otago


1 Matakana

Pacific Ocean

Waiheke Island






5 Nelson


Tasman Sea






N Waipara

Central Otago









Stylistic direction In the winery, winemakers are choosing to flex their muscles less often than in the past. Since the first French oak barrels were imported into New Zealand in the 1980s, oak handling has become far more sensitive, with the more sympathetic method of barrel fermentation the standard for the finest Chardonnays. There’s also experimentation with larger oak formats and even concrete egg fermenters. A major improvement in New Zealand Chardonnay since the early 2000s has been a reduction in buttery flavours. Malolactic fermentation produces diacetyl, which creates an intense buttery aroma. Producers now understand that leaving a wine on its lees (dead yeast cells) and timing the addition of sulphur dioxide after malolactic can lessen the diacetyl influence. The current stylistic debate revolves around sulphides. Allowing a high proportion of solids in the fermentation provides more nutrients for yeast but also risks reduction, so it’s a balancing act to find a level that suits the intended wine style. A little bit adds a hint of flint and brings complexity, however there are far too many examples that are dominated by struck-match flavours, overpowering the fine fruit beneath. Most New Zealand Chardonnays are best consumed within three to six years of the vintage for their brightness, but more mature wines from some of the country’s best Chardonnay producers prove that age and beauty aren’t incompatible.


New Zealand Chardonnay: know your vintages


Warm, often humid. But the April harvest was dry, sunny and large, with large berries. Excellent for white wines.


Dry and warm. A small, low-yielding crop after early frost and cool flowering produced ripe, concentrated whites.


A record early vintage (at both start and finish), as well as a warm, dry summer with little disease pressure. Did the winemakers

speak too soon about 2013 being the vintage of a lifetime?

2013 Widespread drought, yet hailed as the vintage of a lifetime by many producers. Warm, dry summer and autumn produced ripe whites and reds.

New Zealand Chardonnay: the facts • 3,116ha planted, representing 8.4% of total vineyard area • Most planted NZ variety 1993-2003 • Third most-planted NZ variety 2017 • Fourth most-exported NZ variety 2017


Cool summer and late harvest with slow ripening of whites resulted in low yields and intense wines with lively acidity. Ripe, warm Central Otago is the exception.

Rebecca Gibb MW is an awarded wine writer who completed her Master of Wine studies in New Zealand and was named the best taster in her 2015 graduating class ➢

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 87

Map: Maggie Nelson

FOR A HEADY decade, Chardonnay was the darling of the New Zealand wine industry. The prolific German cross Müller-Thurgau was finally toppled from the top spot in 1993, following a government-sponsored vine-pull scheme encouraging growers to uproot such overproductive undesirables, and Chardonnay became the country’s most-planted variety. It held Sauvignon Blanc at bay until as late as 2003, when New Zealand was engulfed by a flood of green yet tropical wines. Sauvignon Blanc has continued to be the cause of all the chatter (good and bad), while Chardonnay producers have quietly been refining their interpretation of this non-aromatic white. They have nature on their side: New Zealand’s cool, maritime-influenced climate imbues its Chardonnay with an elegance and fine acidity that can’t be imitated in warmer locations. A growing confidence to pick earlier, particularly in warmer Chardonnay regions on North Island, has also brought wines with lower alcohol and greater freshness without a loss of flavour ripeness. However, the country’s high levels of ultraviolet light mean that sunburned grape skins can be an issue, which can result in hard phenolic compounds, so vine canopies need to be managed.


The results Nelson and Canterbury were the pick of the regions; elsewhere our panel would like to have seen more of the fruit and less of the winemaking, reports Amy Wislocki IT WAS ONE of those tastings at which our experts arrived with high expectations, and ended the day feeling a little short-changed. ‘New Zealand has a fantastic climate. The country’s top wines have shown that its producers can consistently make cool-climate Chardonnay that is classic and fine, restrained and ageworthy,’ said Rebecca Gibb MW. So why did tasters leave feeling disappointed? The main complaint seemed to centre on a lack of varietal character. ‘Before this tasting, I had a clear idea of what New Zealand Chardonnay is stylistically,’ said Roger Jones. ‘I thought of it as modern, very precise and very focused on the grape. Today though, many wines tasted like Riesling, or like aged Sauvignon Blanc. We took the position that even if it was a great wine, if it didn’t taste like Chardonnay we wouldn’t give it more than 89 points.’ If I buy a New Zealand, or Chilean, or South African Chardonnay, I want it to taste like Chardonnay,’ said Mel Jones. ‘I don’t want something that tastes like sour lemon cheesecake – even if it is delicious.’ There was certainly a feeling that many wines lacked ripeness, or were overly citrus in character. ‘I’d like to see more of the fruit,’ complained Gibb. ‘I appreciate that Chardonnay is what they call “a winemaker’s grape”, because it’s not aromatic and it offers a winemaker the opportunity to show off their techniques, but that shouldn’t be to the detriment of the variety.’ On the plus-side, there were no negative comments about alcohol levels or use of oak. ‘New Zealand has moved away from a buttery style, and the oak was mostly well handled,’ commented Gibb. ‘However, my real bugbear is the struck-match character you can find; many producers are going too far with it. It should be a seasoning, but many of the wines were dominated by it.’ ‘New Zealand is going down the linear, mineral route

‘My bugbear is the struck-match character: many producers are going too far with it’ Rebecca Gibb MW

The scores 92 wines tasted Exceptional

0 Outstanding

with its Chardonnay,’ observed Mel Jones. ‘It’s not overly oaky or reductive. But sometimes it’s too linear – the acid really sharp, and I’d like to see a bit more generosity.’ When the discussion moved to regional performance, there were clear winners and losers. There were a few good wines from Martinborough, but the sample wasn’t wide enough to form a definitive judgement, said Jones. It was Nelson that surprised and impressed him: ‘Suddenly we’ve got a bit of class; a bit of PulignyMontrachet coming in.’ He also liked the wines from Canterbury: ‘Finally we lose all that acidity; these wines had real poise, texture and completeness.’ The generic Hawke’s Bay wines came in for some criticism: ‘Tinned rather than clean tropical fruits in some, and too much playing around with the wine – 2014 was the best performer there,’ according to Jones. Once you drilled down to sub-regions of Hawke’s Bay, the quality unsurprisingly increased. Moving to Marlborough, the tasters were pleasantly surprised. ‘Because it’s so big and associated with “plonk”, it can be overlooked,’ said Gibb. ‘But some Marlborough winemakers are clearly treating Chardonnay with real sensitivity.’ Seek out the 2016s from here, said Jones, as opposed to the 2015s (too Sauvignon-like) or 2014s (too acidic). The upshot, said our tasters, is that you must buy carefully. There are a lot of wonderful wines out there, but the category as a whole seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis.

2 Highly Recommended

18 Recommended

50 Commended

14 Fair

6 Poor

2 Faulty


Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit their latest release, UK- or US-available, 85% minimum Chardonnays from any NZ region

The judges Melanie Brown

Rebecca Gibb MW

Roger Jones

Resident in the UK for more than 10 years, Brown began her own specialist wine retailer, The New Zealand Cellar, online in 2014, setting up a wine bar and shop in Brixton soon after. Brown and her team curate tailored NZ wine events, and she aspires to create a unique wine buying experience showcasing the ever-evolving range of New Zealand wine to UK consumers.

Having spent six years living in New Zealand, Gibb has recently returned to her native northeast England. While in New Zealand, she became a Master of Wine, graduating top of her class and winning the Madame Bollinger medal for excellence in tasting. Her first book, The Wines of New Zealand, will be published in 2018 as part of the Classic Wine Library series.

Jones owns Michelinstarred restaurant The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. Consultant chef for Cardiff’s Park House Restaurant, he is also wine consultant to trade publication The Caterer. He sits on the Moët UK Sommelier of The Year panel and, with his wife Sue, he founded the Mamba Riedel Decanter Awards, which raises funds for The Benevolent drinks trade charity.

8 8 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R


Outstanding 95–97pts

Greystone, Erin’s, Waipara, North Canterbury 2015

Neudorf, Rosie’s Block, Moutere, Nelson 2015 95 MB 95 RG 95 RJ 96

Decanter average score: 95/100pts Individual judges’ scores: Melanie Brown 95 Rebecca Gibb MW 93 Roger Jones 96

£22 Berry Bros & Rudd, The NZ Cellar, Vin Cognito Neudorf, based in Nelson on New Zealand’s South Island, was set up by Tim and Judy Finn back in 1978. After years of experimentation and development with differing grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay became synonymous with the winery. They do produce excellent wines from other varieties too, and Rosie’s Block, a vineyard purchased in 1999 and named after the Finns’ daughter, is also planted to Riesling and Albariño. This block is north-facing, on clay-gravel soils, and is run organically. Impressively, this is also a dry-farmed vineyard (no irrigation), which makes it a real rarity in New Zealand.

£44 Steevenson Wines Greystone started life in 2000 when the Thomas Family purchased a farm on the Omihi hills. The winery’s name comes from the unique limestone conglomerate of fossils, seashells and small pebbles that are found on the bedrock where the vines grow. This soil profile offered a perfect opportunity for viticulturist Nick Gill to realise the full potential of the site, and in 2008, with winemaker Dom Maxwell, the first wines were created. Erin’s is made from Chardonnay grapes grown on the steepest, northwest-facing limestone block.

MB A beautifully curated example of Nelson Chardonnay. Layers of fine fruit meld with pure minerality. It is richly textured with bright acid and an enormous potential for further ageing. Poised and exciting to see.

Melanie Brown A bold palate of tropical fruits and piercing acidity with a flash of a reductive tone. Minerality breaks through intermittently, and the gloriously silky texture provides warmth and authenticity.

RG Creamy and nutty with a lovely silky texture; someone has handled their phenolics well. A medium-bodied style that is positively restrained, leading enticingly onto a taut and fine finish.

Rebecca Gibb MW Smoky bacon and struck match spring to mind here. This is a savoury Chardonnay with plenty of personality. Heaps of concentration and just the right balance between richness and freshness.

RJ A charming, clean and fresh wine whose divine elegance shows clearly. The acidity brings this wine full circle and makes it a complete, delightful example of Chardonnay.

Roger Jones A racy wine with perfectly ripe white stone fruit, minerality, spicy notes and lovely acidity. A struck-match quality gives a controlled, beautiful, evolving wine.

Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14%

Drink 2018-2024 Alcohol 14.5%

Highly Recommended 90–94pts

Neudorf, Moutere, Nelson 2015

Jules Taylor, Marlborough 2016

94 MB 94 RG 92 RJ 95

93 MB 95 RG 91 RJ 93

Mount Riley, 17 Valley, Marlborough 2016

£38 Berry Bros & Rudd, The NZ Cellar

£14.49 Decorum Vintners

93 MB 92 RG 95 RJ 91

A great example of defined elegance; there are unfolding layers of creaminess, spice, nuts and a tantalising caramelised brioche note. This wine is evolving beautifully with continued freshness; it is supple, complex and simply gorgeous. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%

An exquisite, feminine style of Chardonnay, this is showing delicate lemony tones combining harmoniously with florals and stone fruits. The seamless oak gives a playful attitude to this wine, and the acidity sits respectfully alongside. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%

POA Alivini Intense and concentrated, this has vivacious nutty and flinty tones giving a savoury, almost wild element. Fresh green herbs and floral purity define the palate; this is the fresh, modern style that Marlborough should be showcasing. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13% ➢


24 FEBRUARY 2018



Taste 300 fine wines from Spain and Portugal See page 16 for more information

Book today at or call +44 (0)20 3148 4495


Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts

Alpha Domus, Hawke’s Bay 2015 92 MB 94 RG 89 RJ 92

£26 New Generation McKinley Texturally enticing and wonderfully ripe, this is a rich, buttery example. Honeycomb dances playfully across the palate along with toffee apples and butterscotch, while the racy acidity provides balance. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%

Trinity Hill, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay 2016 92 MB 93 RG 90 RJ 94

Stanley Estates, Reserve Single Vineyard, Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2015 92 MB 92 RG 91 RJ 92 £18.95 Frontier Fine Wines, Seckford Agencies,

Te Kairanga, John Martin, Martinborough 2015

The Halifax Wine Co

Bold and beautiful, this displays peaches and cream richness with supple layers of tropical fruit and the heady enticement of nuts and brioche. It has bright acid and great texture to keep it in check. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%

Reminiscent of lime marmalade on toasted brioche, with a peach and apple undertone. Round and creamy with energy, concentration and balance. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14%

92 MB 94 RG 89 RJ 92

POA Conviviality, Wine Rack

Escarpment, Kupe, Martinborough 2014 91 MB 94 RG 90 RJ 90 £22.95 Frontier Fine Wines, Martinez Wines,

Kahurangi Estate, Mt Arthur Reserve, Nelson 2016 91 MB 90 RG 91 RJ 93

£22.99 Liberty

Seckford Agencies

£19.99 Global Wine Solutions

Just what NZ Chardonnay should be about; this has perfect white peaches, delicate florals and a wet stone quality. Walnuts and spice come through from the oak; a great foodmatching wine. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%

Fleshy peaches, lemon tart and crème brûlée, just the right amount of struck match for seasoning, with an oatmeal and mature cheese element that is texturally invigorating and will age well. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13%

A clean and focused example that has hints of soft pineapple and a tropical edge. It is lively and fresh thanks to those juicy white nectarine characters and some crunchy, plucky acidity to boot. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14%

Mt Beautiful, North Canterbury 2016 91 MB 94 RG 90 RJ 90 £15 Genesis Wines

Muddy Water, Waipara, North Canterbury 2015 91 MB 92 RG 90 RJ 90 £21.95 Corney & Barrow

Nautilus, Marlborough 2016

Lovely fruit concentration on the nose leads to a lingering palate full of stone fruit and moreish complexity. Good crispness and it will evolve with time, despite the touch of heat on the finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14.5%

A wine brimming with confidence, its floral tones are fine and perfumed. Focused and mouthfilling with fine acidity, lovely texture and ample pear, nectarine, spice, caramel and toasted hazelnuts. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14%

A reductive, sweaty character on the nose leads to a linear, firm palate with a lithe, crisp frame. Driven and excitingly fresh, the oak is well integrated to showcase a fresh Marlborough style. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13%

Te Mata, Elston, Hawke’s Bay 2016 91 MB 93 RG 91 RJ 90 £32.49 Cru World Wine, Fine & Rare, Hedonism,

Babich, Irongate, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay 2016

Carrick, Bannockburn, Central Otago 2016 90 MB 92 RG 89 RJ 89 £16.70-£16.95 Enotria&Coe, Exel, Great Western

90 MB 90 RG 89 RJ 90

91 MB 90 RG 92 RJ 90

£18.99-£19.99 Negociants UK, The Solent Cellar

The NZ House of Wine

£22.95 Available via UK agent Conviviality


An oxidative character combines with fruit concentration and a mouthfilling texture. A zesty yuzu note and some white peach gives crunch and vibrancy, ending on appeasing minerality. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%

A youthful, taut wine that has captivating purity and is dialled down on ripeness. A clean, poised style that benefits from delicate and seamless oak and a nutty, flinty layered complexity. Classy. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%

Aromatic and floral, zesty, fresh and full of pear and peach characters, with a firm line of citrus-like acidity and a soft, creamy oak influence. A well-balanced and easy-drinking expression. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%

9 0 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R


Highly Recommended (continued) 90–94pts

Kumeu River, Kumeu Village, North Island 2016 90 MB 90 RG 88 RJ 92

£11.95-£13.20 Davis Bell McCraith, Haynes Hanson

- Marlborough 2016 Te Pa,

Martinborough Vineyard, Home Block, Martinborough 2015 90 MB 90 RG 88 RJ 91 £37.99 Available via UK agent Negociants UK

90 MB 92 RG 90 RJ 88

£12.98 Broadland Wineries Fine nose redolent of red apple skin, white peach and florals. There is a caramelised element here seasoned with nutmeg and clove and a seductive weight to the palate, underpinned and brought alive by snappy acidity. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13.5%

A full-structured and layered wine with rich stone fruit and impressive intensity. You can see the appeal here; there is a wonderfully pleasing, mouth-coating texture and acidity that would make this a great food-pairing option. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13.5%

& Clarke, Lea & Sandeman, Tanners

Expressions of bright citrus and grapefruit that are verging on astringent. There are gently integrated oak characters supporting and balancing the flinty minerality and a bracing finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.5%

Recommended 86–89pts Wine

Score MB



Tasting note



Alpha Domus, The Skybolt, Hawke’s Bay 2015




Christmas citrus peel comes through on the nose along with caramelised


2018- £17.50 2022

Cloudy Bay, Marlborough 2015



brioche characters and ripe, tropical nuances of pawpaw gliding through.




Pear juice and a slightly reduced character on the nose transcends onto a

13.5% 2018- £28

zippy, lean palate with lingering citrus flavours.

Craggy Range, Kidnappers Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay 2016


Greystone, Waipara, North Canterbury 2015


Greywacke, Marlborough 2014







The pureness of citrus and green apples is encapsulated on the palate


Hints of florals and struck match on the nose lead gracefully onto crisp stone 14% fruit and emerging toasty oak, giving a creamy, smooth texture.




Stockists New Generation McKinley

Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Sainsbury’s


alongside some well-carried French oak-derived vanilla tones.



2018- £19.99 2021


2018- £22 2021

Steevenson Wines

crème brûlée sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts, finishing with a warm lick.

14.5% 2018- £24.502023 £36

Davis Bell McCraith, Drinkmonger, Exel, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, Valvona & Crolla

Aromas of tropical fruit pastilles unfold onto a creamy, nutty palate showing

13.5% 2018- £16.50

Soho Wine Supply

An elegant Chardonnay beaming with tropical fruit, pineapple, ginger and

Rod McDonald, Te Awanga Estate, Hawke’s Bay 2016


Summerhouse, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2016





A personable wine that displays spiced nuts with a flinty appeal and a savoury 13.5% 2018- £14.99 mocha edge. Dried pineapple comes through underneath the evident oak. 2021

Barwell & Jones

Te Awa, Single Estate, Hawke’s Bay 2016





A touch of sulphur on the nose wafts away into more citrus and yuzu tones

BinTwo, BJR Hanby, D Byrne & Co, Dulwich Vintners, NZ House of Wine, Partridges, The Bottleneck, The Cork & Keg, Thind

Waimea, Nelson 2016





quince and white peach concentration; a streak of acidity leaves a firm finish.



and nestles playfully between tropical fruits and some classy oak.




2018- £16.90 2021

Textured and zingy, a fresh example with apple aromas and a slight nutty

13.5% 2018- £12.99

edge. A simple yet appealing style that will have you going back for more.


North South Wines

Wairau River, Marlborough 2014





Carrying its bright acidity well, with green pyrazine notes and lovely lime and 13.5% 2018- £15 kaffir; not what you’d expect from Chardonnay, but enjoyable all the same. 2021

Ellis Wines

Anchorage Family Estate, Nelson 2014





This wine has a grassy edge but remains toasty, offering up savoury nuances, 12.5% 2018- £16.50 cream and bruised apple. Simple, effective, would be great with Thai lobster. 2022

Peter Watts

Astrolabe, Province, Marlborough 2014





Richly aromatic in style, the oak is noticeable and gives smoky, nutty, creamy 13%


Blank Canvas, Marlborough 2016


Huia, Marlborough 2015





qualities but sits nicely with the soft pear and stone fruit concentration.

2018- £17.60 2022

Winemaking to the fore here, layers of toasted walnuts and bags of oak

13.5% 2018- £26.99

beneath the ripe peaches suggest this will evolve further in bottle.




Savoury, nutty nuances suggest an oxidative style that still has incredible freshness and an appealing lingering minerality on a zesty finish.

Jules Taylor, OTQ Single Vineyard, Marlborough 2016


Mahi, Twin Valleys Vineyard, Marlborough 2015


Marisco, Craft Series The Pioneer, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2015






90 86

90 89

13.5% 2018- POA

Bibendum PLB


Perfumed with florals, talcum and violets, this is a light-bodied, moreish Chardonnay with a melange of stewed fruit and creamy nuttiness.


Liberty, Tivoli Wines


13.5% 2018- £21.49

Decorum Vintners


Bountiful notes of citrus and lemon thyme mix with a bruised apple and wet

13.5% 2018- £21.99

river stone quality. Showing some development, with a little more to come.


A well-judged balance of oak and fruit here, where the oak sits playfully among the white stone fruit. Not hugely complex, but crunchy and lovely.

13.5% 2018- £35

Berkmann, M Wine Store, Wine Utopia



D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 91


Recommended (continued) 86–89pts


Score MB



Tasting note

Pask, Declaration, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay 2015




Creamy banana oatmeal comes through on the nose, where in the mouth it is 13%

Saint Clair, Omaka Reserve, Marlborough 2016


Seifried, Old Coach Road Unoaked, Nelson 2016





Balanced and restrained, this is shining with minerality alongside caramelised 13.5% 2018- £13.49 brioche and pear elements and a fresh, chewy finish. 2022

Hailsham Cellars, John Kelly, Neill & Co, Roberts & Speight, The NZ Cellar

Vavasour, Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2016





A creamy and textured example with struck-match notes yet complexity too, 14%

2018- POA 2024

Conviviality, Wine Rack

Villa Maria, Keltern Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay 2016


2018- £19.50 2021

D Byrne & Co, NZ House of Wine, Whitchurch Wines

Waimea, Spinyback, Nelson 2016


Ata Rangi, Craighall, Martinborough 2015


Awatere River by Louis Vavasour, Single Vyd, Awatere Valley, 2016


Crossroads, Winemakers Collection, Hawke’s Bay 2015


Domaine Rewa, Central Otago 2014


Esk Valley, Hawke’s Bay 2016




incredibly textured, filled with honeyed flavours and well-handled phenolics.




An interesting and nuanced style that shows smoky bacon making its bed


Apple strudel aromas float across the nose, supported by lovely oak


integration and a grip on the palate. A touch of bitterness on the finish.




Delicate aromas of violet and apple make this a beguiling, appetising wine.

13.5% 2018- £8.99

Texturally pleasing, harmonious minerality appeases fruit concentration.




Unmistakeably New World in style, this shows ripe peach, Alphonso mango



Tropical aromatics of pineapple and pear, with soft butterscotch tones, a

13.5% 2018- £36.99



There are a lot of interesting qualities here: lemon cheesecake, soft sherbet

Hallgarten, Strictly Wine, Wineman

North South Wines

Berry Bros & Rudd, Liberty

2022 Antipodean Sommelier


2018- POA 2020




Enotria&Coe, Great Western Wine




H2Vin, New Street Wine Shop

bright passion fruit flicker and a little heat on the finish.




and a touch of banana, with a pleasant spritz that will evolve with time.


2018- £10.40 2022 (2014)



toasty caramel and piercing citrus acidity marking the finish.



13.5% 2018- £20.99

with luscious fruit; a great style for food, perhaps an Indian dish.



and a savoury character intermingling on a ripe, weighty finish.




Roast quince and subtle hints of spiced apricot dance across the nose and palate, followed by a lemony acidity and an oaky char.




A gentle wine redolent of stone fruit with obvious oak flashing through,

13.5% 2018- £13.45

followed by a yuzu and lemon brightness bringing in the finish.


BJR Hanby, Cellar 28, D Byrne & Co, Grapesmith, Hailsham Cellars, Lamorbey Wine, Luvians, NZ House of Wine, Taurus

Fromm, La Strada, Southern Valleys, Marlborough 2016


Hunter’s, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2016





White flowers and buttercup meadows mingle with a flinty character, hints of 13.5% 2018- £16.95 struck match and some stone fruit that is a little overwhelmed by oak. 2020


Lawson’s Dry Hills, Reserve, Marlborough 2015





Full of lemony goodness tickled by a honeycomb edge and a lingering

2018- £17.99 2021

Champagnes & Châteaux

Pask, Small Batch, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay 2016


2018- POA 2022

Merchant Vintners

Rapaura Springs, Reserve, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2016


Seresin, Reserve, Marlborough 2014


Spy Valley, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2015


Tiki, Hawke’s Bay 2017





A light-bodied, creamy style with nice roundness on the mid-palate followed 13.5% 2018- £12.99 by lemon-fresh acidity on the finish. An appealing wine that’s easy to drink. 2019

Castelnau Wine Agencies

Trinity Hill, Hawke’s Bay 2015





A bit closed at first, developing slowly into cordial-like expressions of ripe




Apples and orchard fruit prevail over a slightly sweet-and-sour character,

13.5% 2018- £24.99

followed by a vein of citrus acidity and a medium-length finish.



freshness, if slightly shy at the end.




Direct and to the point, the phenolic ripeness pulls the sweet vanilla, savoury, 13% spicy and zingy characters together here and leaves a soft finish.




A light, floral, flinty style redolent of a Riesling more than a Chardonnay. It is

13.5% 2018- £14.99

apple-fresh and bright, driven by an underbelly of minerality.




Flickers of smoke lead to bitter walnut and stone fruit. A pretty style that



Firm and crunchy, this is again not evocative of Chardonnay but has

Maisons Marques & Domaines

2020 13.5% 2018- £24.99

doesn’t immediately suggest Chardonnay, but it’s enjoyable.


Boutinot, Eurovines, St Margarets Wines, Virgin Wines

2021 13%

appealing floral notes and high, bracing acidity.

2018- £13 2020

Fareham Wine Cellar, The NZ Cellar, The Wine Society, Victualler, Weavers of Nottingham, Wined Up Here, Winedirect Bibendum PLB


2018- £16.99 2021

Liberty, NZ House of Wine, Waitrose


2018- £16.20 2020

Gwin Ll^yn, NZ House of Wine, R Campbell & Sons, The Halifax Wine Co

fruit complemented by creamy undertones.

Vidal, Reserve, Hawke’s Bay 2016


Zephyr, Marlborough 2014





Strong nutty aromas unfold onto mangoes and pears and a pot pourri quality. 13.5% 2018- £17.50 Wet river stone minerality simmers underneath. 2019

Alliance Wine

Babich, Hawke’s Bay 2017





An aromatic example that’s expressing pear drop and passion fruit as well as 13%

Bibendum PLB, Conviviality




Herbaceous elements mix with tinned fruit on the nose. Subtle savoury undertones on the palate, coupled with slightly prominent oak character.

Black Estate, North Canterbury 2016


Crossroads, Milestone Series, Hawke’s Bay 2015


Elephant Hill, Reserve, Hawke’s Bay 2015


Esk Valley, Winemakers Reserve, Hawke’s Bay 2016





a citrus sherbet edge. This is simple, with poise.

2018- £13.95 2020

An interesting, enticing style that has a hint of pétillance, a funky scent and a 13%


deep intensity of fruit. A yeasty, dusty finish adds intrigue.




Gentle and delicate on the nose, the phenolics are quite harsh on the midpalate. Nice tropical fruit, though a little submerged by creamy oak.




An ambitious wine that displays caramelised apple and ample oak influence, with lime and toast flavours coming through.




A tingle of sulphur blows away to show tropical nuances, a pleasant lees texture and lemon-like acidity.

92 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R


The NZ Cellar

(2015) 13%

2018- £13.95 2020

13.5% 2018- £30.95

Enotria&Coe, Great Western Wine

Corney & Barrow

2023 13.5% 2018- £21.15


Ellie’s Cellar, Field & Fawcett, Hailsham Cellars, NZ House of Wine, The Whalley Wine Shop, The Wine Reserve


Recommended (continued) 86–89pts


Score MB



Tasting note


Harwood Hall, Hawke’s Bay 2016





Pear drops and nutty pineapple dominate the nose, with a mouthful of plump 13.5% 2018- £21 confectionery. Not massively complex but nevertheless an enjoyable drink. 2020

Top Selection

JacksonEstate,ShelterBelt, WaihopaiValley,Marlborough2014





Aromas and flavours on the riper end of the spectrum are complemented by

Ocado, Rollings Wine Co, Whitmore & White

Palliser Estate, Martinborough 2016


Pegasus Bay, Waipara, North Canterbury 2015


Seresin, Marlborough 2014


13.5% 2018

a crunchy acidity and a delayed savoury component.




Clean and fruity Chardonnay with fine and firm mineral line. The flavours jump 13%


around a lot, leading ultimately to a citrus and chalky finish.










Commended 83-85pts Q Coopers Creek, Swamp Reserve, Hawke’s Bay 2014 85, 13.5%, 2018-2019, £22.99 All About Wine, Berkmann, Smith’s Wines, The Tasting House Q Elephant Hill, Hawke’s Bay 2016 85, 13.5%, 2018-2020, £20.25 Corney & Barrow Q Giesen, The Fuder Single Vineyard Clayvin, Marlborough 2014 85, 13.5%, 2018-2021, £41.75 H2Vin, Twenty One Wines, Vagabond Q Marisco Vineyards, The King’s Legacy, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2016 85, 13.5%, 2018-2020, £12.99 Majestic Q Paritua, Hawke’s Bay 2013 85, 13.5%, 2018-2019, £21.95 Davy’s Q Vidal, Legacy, Hawke’s Bay 2016 85, 13.5%, 2018-2020, £41.15 Clos & Cru, Fine & Rare, Hailsham Cellars, Hedonism, NZ House of Wine, R Campbell & Sons Q Villa Maria, Cellar Selection,

Marlborough 2016 85, 13%, 2018-2023, £13.50




NZ House of Wine


Delicate farm and earthy notes suggest some evolution, alongside baked apricots and caramelised hazelnut, giving a rich, reductive style.




14.5% 2018- £24.50


Texturally this is very enjoyable, and the gooseberry, violet and talcum

13.5% 2018- £15.99

expressions are enticing, the oak influence a touch one-dimensional.

SpyValley,EnvoyJohnsonVineyard, Waihopai Valley, Marlborough 2014


Cheers, Sandhams, Wined Up Here


Compelling floral aromas are reminiscent of Riesling, making this a pretty wine that is underpinned by high zesty acid.

Hailsham Cellars, St Andrews Wine Co, The Vineking, Woods Wines

12.5% 2018- £20



NZ House of Wine Q Whitehaven, Marlborough 2015 85, 13.5%, 2018-2020, POA NZ House of Wine Q Hãhã, Hawke’s Bay 2016 84, 13%, 2018-2019, £13 The Imperial Wine Co Q Waipara Springs, Waipara, North Canterbury 2013 84, 13.5%, 2018, £12.95 Frontier Fine Wines, The Village Vine Q Walnut Block, Nutcracker, Marlborough 2015 84, 14%, 2018-2021, £16.50 Vintage Roots Q Man O’ War, Valhalla, Waiheke 2014 83, 14.5%, 2018-2020, £26 Enotria&Coe, Great Western Wine Q Mt Difficulty, Lowburn Valley, Central Otago 2016 83, 14.5%, 2018-2020, £23.99 Ellis Wines, Waitrose Q Riverby Estate, Marlborough 2014 83, 13.5%, 2018-2021, £19 Black Dog Wine Agency

Fair 76-82pts Q Sileni, Cellar Selection, Hawke’s Bay 2016 82

Q Tohu, Wairau Valley, Marlborough 2016 82 Q Cypress, Terraces, Hawke’s Bay 2016 81 Q Matahiwu Estate, Holly, Hawke’s Bay 2016 80 Q Kumeu River, Estate, North Island 2013 77 Q Escarpment, Martinborough 2014 76

Poor 70-75pts Q Osawa, Prestige Collection, Hawke’s Bay 2014 75 Q Rod McDonald, Trademark, Hawke’s Bay 2015 70

Next month’s panel tastings Mature red Rioja (2011 and older) & Galician whites

My top three Melanie Brown

My top three Rebecca Gibb MW

My top three Roger Jones

Q Muddy Water, Waipara, North Canterbury 2015 It’s no wonder North

Q Mount Riley, 17 Valley, Marlborough 2016 Mount Riley’s top

Q Greystone, Erin’s, Waipara, North Canterbury 2015 Classic white

Canterbury is gaining momentum. The limestone soils allow the purity of the wines to shine, giving a lean and elegant style of Chardonnay. 92 Drink 2018-2020

Chardonnay, and the low yields are reflected in its high concentration. Savoury, almost wild with full solids providing just the right amount of flint overlaying white stone fruit and citrus, and a linear finish. 95 Drink 2018-2022

peaches, delicate acidity, fine use of oak, perfect matchstick vibrancy. This shone, highlighting Waipara as a top source for delicate fine wines. 96 Drink 2018-2024

Q Neudorf, Rosie’s Block, Moutere, Nelson 2015 It may be half the price of

Q Giesen, The Fuder Single Vineyard Clayvin, Marlborough 2014 Made in small quantities in this

Neudorf’s excellent Moutere Chardonnay but this had the edge today. Mid-weight style that is restrained, taut and nutty. Superb value. 95 Drink 2018-2025

wine, with its gently perfumed and precise flavours. Sourced from Mendoza clones, which together with the claygravel soil helps to provide a mineral acidity to balance the ripe fruits. Will age gracefully. 96 Drink 2018-2025

Q Greystone, Erin’s, Waipara, North Canterbury 2015 From a low-

Q Kumeu River, Kumeu Village, North Island 2016 This is Kumeu

revered vineyard, the use of 1,000-litre German fuder barrels sets this wine apart, offering texture, oak integration and complexity. 88 Drink 2018-2021

yielding, steep limestone slope, offering intensity and sumptuous texture. Strikes just the right balance between richness and freshness. 93 Drink 2018-2024

River’s excellent-value introduction to its range of world-class Chardonnays. Hand-picked, 25% oak-fermented, gives a fresh fruit-filled wine with a zesty aroma and great texture, hints of flint and spice, youthful now but will evolve beautifully in the short term. 92 Drink 2018-2020

Q Villa Maria, Keltern Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay 2016 I’m often cautious of the cult following of Villa Maria as a supermarket brand, but this wine shows its tenacious ability for quality. Tightly formed, the epitome of Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. 92 Drink 2018-2021

Q Neudorf, Rosie’s Block, Moutere, Nelson 2015 I loved the elegance of this

NB: the tasters’ top wines are not necessarily their top-scoring, rather those which, on learning the wines’ identity, they feel are the most notable given their provenance, price or other factors

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 93


A modern taste of Georgia Its ancient qvevri winemaking traditions are now inspiring producers the world over. Simon Woolf selects the best of both traditional and new in the former Soviet state JANCIS ROBINSON MW once coined the phrase ‘the new Old World’ to describe emerging wine nations in Europe and Eurasia. None fits this definition better than the republic of Georgia. Boasting one of the world’s oldest winemaking cultures, Georgia only recently modernised and resuscitated an industry brought to its knees after the break-up of the USSR. A clutch of private companies established in the late 1990s now dominate production. Their focus tends towards squeaky-clean, modern styles from the more popular indigenous grape varieties, plus the semi-sweet

bottlings so adored by Russian customers. While the grape varieties lend a touch of exoticism (Kisi, Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli and Saperavi are the most common), the wines can lack individuality. The same can be said of the much-loved ‘appellation’ wines such as Kindzmarauli, Mukuzani or Tsinandali. Geographical provenance is now enshrined in law, but stylistically the results are often amorphous. Industrialscale winemaking and variable vineyard practice can mask any sense of terroir. Khvanchkara, Kindzmarauli and Ojaleshi are always semi-sweet (supposedly naturally).

Alaverdi Monastery, Rkatsiteli, Kakheti 2014 95 N/A UK

Iago Bitarishivili, Chinuri – Skin Contact, Kartli 2015 95 £16.65-£26 Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Green,

Satrapezo, Mtsvane Qvevri, Kakheti 2013 95 £31.99 Dacha

Winemaker Father Gerasim uses the monastery’s own grapes. Spiced apple fruit, with hints of honey, papaya and apricot. Structured like a Barolo, with wonderfully nutty tannins. Drink 2018-2029 Alcohol 13%

Tannico, The Smiling Grape Co

Six months’ maceration in qvevri. Complex and multi-layered: kiwi, mint, sage, honey and a refreshing wet stone finish. Pure elegance, one to age. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 12.5%

Inviting umeboshi plum and green tea aromas lead into a round, supple palate with fine but assertive tannins. A superbly polished, enjoyable effort from a large but qualityminded producer. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13%

Papari Valley, Rkatsiteli, Kakheti 2016 94 N/A UK

Orgo, Rkatsiteli, Kakheti 2014 93 £19-£23 Clark Foyster, Hedonism

Very ripe and aromatic nose, packed with fresh apricot. Well structured, assertive but in perfect balance. The second vintage from an experienced grower who only recently started bottling his wine. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14%

The personal project of Gogi Dakishvili (head winemaker at Schuchmann/Vinoterra). Six months on the skins imbues the wine with fine tannins, providing a perfect backdrop for the spicy orchard fruit. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13%

Iago Bitarishivili, Chinuri No Skin Contact, Kartli 2014 91 POA Les Caves de Pyrene

Marani, Kondoli Vineyards Mtsvane-Kisi, Kakheti 2016 90 £15-£15.60 Dacha, Hedonism

Qvevri-fermented but no skin contact. Taut apple fruit with wild herbs, opening up to a surprisingly broad, luxuriant texture. The nose has balsamic hints but the palate is beautifully fresh and pure. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 12.5%

No qvevri or skin contact. Thrilling perfume of white peach and wild flowers, with focused apricot fruit. Ripe but bone-dry on the finish with a salty tang. A superb effort; deserves further bottle age. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13%

9 4 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Vita Vinea, Kisi, Kakheti 2015 92 £23 Bottle Apostle, Clark Foyster Vita Vinea is made by Gogi Dakishvili’s son Temuri. Kisi shows its Viognier-like character, with aromas of rose petal and pear. Just when you think the creamy texture and chalky fruit could get too much, tannins offer freshness. Beautifully done. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13%

Nikoladzeebis Marani (Ramaz Nikoladze), Tsitska-Tsolikouri, Imereti 2015 90 £23.99 Christopher Keiller, Les Caves de Pyrene Two indigenous varieties are fermented with stems to make this dark, earthy liquid. Bruised pear, herbs and nutty tannins. A quintessential qvevri wine. Drink 2020-2025 Alc 13%

GEORGIA The unique qvevri tradition is infinitely more fascinating. Qvevris are giant terracotta amphorae with an iconic pointed base. Buried in the ground up to their necks, they provide natural temperature control and a neutral vessel for fermentation and ageing (or, as legend goes, a safe place to hide wine from invading bolsheviks). Traditionally, both white and red grapes are left with their skins, and sometimes stems. The resulting wines, usually made in a very low-intervention manner, vary from aromatic and nuanced to pungent, savoury and tannic. Easterly Kakheti is the most important region, and home to the most structured, tannic wines. Qvevri winemaking has seen a massive resurgence since its near demise under the Soviets. In 2009 fewer than 10 commercial producers existed; now there are more than 100. Many are minute family operations. Some are truly outstanding, others enthusiastic but lacking experience as commercial winemakers.

Gotsa, Tsolikouri, Kartli 2015 89 £17.99 The Georgian Wine Society

From 2018, a newly introduced legal classification for qvevri wines will make it easier for wine lovers to identify the genuine article. Most traditional-style bottlings clearly show a picture of a qvevri, or there is a reference to qvevri wine on the label. A recent and welcome development is the availability of more wines from the Kartli and Imereti regions. Here, there’s a tradition of making white wines with less or even no skin contact, providing welcome variety for those who find Kakheti’s amber wines too overbearing. The big guys have also got in on the act, and almost every large producer now has a boutique qvevri line. There are excellent, accessible and well priced wines to be found in these ranges. The recommendations below include examples from both small and large. I’ve focused mostly on traditional qvevri wines as this is Georgia’s trump card. A small selection of Western styles is included for comparison purposes. D

Simon Woolf is an award-winning freelance wine writer who also publishes www.

Lagvinari, Saperavi Gvino, Kakheti 2011 94 £24.90 Hedonism

Satrapezo, Saperavi Qvevri, Kakheti 2014 93 £28-£32 Dacha, Winescape

Eko Glonti now works only with qvevri. This Saperavi was his first vintage, fermented in stainless steel. Layers of wild berries and herby cassis, with spicy tannins that are only now approachable. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%

Spicy blackcurrant, with hints of dried herb and woodsmoke. A very serious effort. Fermented in qvevri and then aged in barriques – but nicely done and very well integrated. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 13.5%

Vinoterra, Saperavi, Kaketi 2014 91 £11.95 The Wine Society

Pheasants Tears, Shavkapito, Kartli 2015 90 £21.49 Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Green

Tbilvino, Mukuzani, Kakheti 2013 90 £13.49 Mephisto

A charming, easygoing qvevri-fermented Saperavi made by Gogi Dakishvili. Loaded with ripe red berries and baked cherry, but nuanced and herbaceous with it. Subtle use of oak. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13%

American John Wurdeman has been key in repopularising qvevri winemaking. Perfumed, textured expression of the variety. An iron fist in a velvet glove; a wall of tannins on the finish clamours for food. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 13%

Mukuzani is both a delimited area and a style: 100% Saperavi from the right bank of the Alavani, aged in oak and bottle. This is lithe, juicy and well structured with berry compote and woodsmoke. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 12.5%

Tbilvino, Saperavi, Kakheti 2014 90 £11.99-£14.95 Fairleys Wines, KWM Wines

Zurab Topuridze, Saperavi, Kakheti 2015 89 £20.40-£23.99 Buon Vino, Christopher Keiller,

Marani, Khvanchkara, Racha 2016 89 £19-£26 Dacha, Skonis

& Spirits, The Georgian Wine Society

Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene, Tannico

Fermented in stainless steel, this has lively red fruits and a soft, supple texture. Really approachable and a great introduction to the variety. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 12.5%

A unique reading of Saperavi, fermented in qvevri but with very light extraction. Juicy raspberry fruit; featherweight tannnins. For early drinking. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12.5%

Khvanchkara is always semi-sweet. Honeyed strawberry fruit is nicely offset by fresh citrus and balsamic notes. Like a turbo-charged Brachetto d’Acqui. Reputed to be Stalin’s favourite wine. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 11.5%

A ripe, fruity expression of this sometimes rather dry and dusty variety, with fresh cut apple and apricot fruit, a typical hot stone aroma and a fine-grained, elegant spine. Gotsa is a small biodynamically certified estate, not far from Tbilisi. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 12%

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Decanter/Hine UK Restaurant of the Year

Ynyshir Machynlleth I

ngredient Led. Flavour Driven. Fat Fuelled. Meat Obsessed.’ So reads the notice over the archway to the kitchen at Ynyshir, the award-winning restaurant with rooms that has been named the Decanter/Hine UK Restaurant of the Year for 2017. Chef Gareth Ward is indeed passionate about meat. Beef, lamb, pork, chicken and duck all feature on his 14-course tasting menu. ‘I wasn’t going to put beef on the menu – every restaurant serves beef and scallops,’ he says dismissively, ‘but when I tasted Ifor’s [Welsh farmer Ifor Humphreys] I couldn’t leave it out.’ Many restaurants have tasting menus, but few chefs have the skill to combine textures and flavours with quite the flair of Ward. His Wagyu beef, for instance, is aged for three weeks, brined for four days, cooked for three more days then finished on the barbecue giving it an incredible depth and intensity of flavour. The open kitchen has a digital display

showing the time that the beef has been ageing down to the nearest second. Ward isn’t afraid of fat either, which abounds in the Wagyu, pork belly and lamb. ‘It’s a carrier of flavour and helps our meat to age,’ he explains as he shows me a saddle of lamb he’s been cosseting. ‘We age all our own meat.’ The complicated processes that each ingredient goes through enable Ward to prepare everything ahead. It makes for far less stress for both the kitchen and customer, he says. ‘We do very little cooking during service now. It takes away all the pressure – the screaming and shouting that still seems to be the done thing in the industry but just doesn’t work any more. We have a waiting list of chefs who want to work here,’ he adds proudly. Born just outside Newcastle, Ward didn’t set out to be a chef. ‘I left school at 16 without any sense of what I wanted to do. To be honest, I was dead fussy – I wouldn’t eat anything.’ Urged by an uncle, he fell into working in a pub and found he had a talent for cooking. His break came through working with Aaron Patterson at Hambleton Hall, for whom he still has the greatest respect, then after a couple of other jobs, with the innovative Sat Bains in Nottingham. ‘Aaron taught me to be a chef and Sat taught me how to think,’ he says.

Going solo

Above: Wagyu beef, which is aged for three weeks then brined and slow-cooked for three days

He took over the kitchens at Ynyshir, his first head chef position, in 2013 and gained a Michelin star the following year. In early 2017 he took a stake in the business, becoming chef proprietor, and feels he’s now developed a distinctive style of his own.

Right: the bread course consists of sourdough with miso butter and Wagyu dripping

‘I left school at 16 without any sense of what I wanted to do. I was dead fussy – I wouldn’t eat anything’ Gareth Ward

Above: Ynyshir restaurant with rooms is located in the Welsh countryside north of Aberystwyth 9 6 | F e b r u a r y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Left: Welsh lamb rib is one of the dishes on the 14-course tasting menu

In association with

Above: sommelier Amelia Eriksson curates a list that focuses on biodynamic and natural wines

Below: Decanter’s chief restaurant reviewer Fiona Beckett with Ynyshir’s chef Gareth Ward and sommelier Amelia Eriksson

Ynyshir, Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth, Wales SY20 8TA;; Tel: +44 (0)1654 781209. Lunch Wednesday to Saturday, 1pm-2pm. Dinner Tuesday to Saturday, 7pm-9pm. Tasting menu, bed and breakfast starts from £195 Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer ➢

Photographs: Mike Prior (3)

The menu is full of quirky touches, from his ‘not French onion soup’ – the result of a series of experiments cooking onions different ways that led to a Japanese-style soup with miso and dashi – to a ridiculously good British-style chicken curry, scattered with crispy chicken skin which stems from the hugely popular curries Ward cooks for staff meals. A swede is playfully carved like a Halloween lantern, the contents diced and incorporated into a Welsh cawl. This is a chef who brings a strong element of comfort food to his fine dining. Ward’s cooking is a challenge for wine, but his partner Amelia Eriksson is undaunted. She doesn’t attempt to do wine pairing: ‘If people don’t want a single bottle I’ll pick out a few wines that will work and fit in with their taste.’ From the 60 wines available by the glass she picks a smoky Georgian Saperavi to go with a duck dish and the Wagyu, and a new-wave Californian Chardonnay to go with a dish of pork belly and pickled cherries. It’s a surprising and stunning combination. From having been resolutely classical (there’s still the odd bottle of Sassicaia, Tertre Roteboeuf and La Turque in the cellar), the list now veers fashionably in the direction of natural wines. ‘The kitchen is trying to make the best food with the best ingredients and not to do too much to them,’ says Eriksson. ‘I take the same approach to wine.’

2017 was a good year for Ynyshir, which was not only singled out by Decanter/Hine, but rated 12th in The Good Food Guide, secured five rosettes in the AA Best Restaurants guide and held onto its Michelin star (in my view it deserves two). It’s worth not only the detour but the drive across Wales, through some of the most beautiful countryside in the British Isles. The breakfasts, with homemade crumpets, are pretty amazing too.

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Decanter/Hine International Restaurant of the Year

Babel Budapest I

Photographs: Árpád Pintér (4)

have to confess, I didn’t visit Budapest in the expectation of finding a thrilling restaurant, let alone a world-class one, but Babel was undoubtedly one of the most exciting restaurants I ate in last year, and a worthy winner of the 2017 Decanter/Hine International Restaurant of the Year. Originally set up in 2008 by then 29-yearold Hubert Hlatky-Schlichter, an entrepreneur with a taste for eating out but no restaurant experience, it has developed into a dining room that ticks all the modish boxes: cuttingedge design, savvy wine service, locally sourced ingredients (75% come from Hungary and neighbouring Transylvania) and some dazzling skill in the kitchen thanks to its talented young chef István Veres, who comes from Transylvania himself. I have longing memories of his take on egg galuska (noodles), a decadently indulgent dish of spätzle topped with an airy cloud of truffle-infused foam. The path to success (a Michelin star has inexplicably eluded them) hasn’t been easy. ‘We started with 27 covers, without investors, in the middle of the financial crisis,’ says Hlatky-Schlichter, ‘but we were recognised as very cosmopolitan and quickly rated among the five best restaurants in Hungary.’ Even then, Hlatky-Schlichter boldly closed the restaurant at one point for three months because he felt they had lost their way. ‘I said we’d open again when we were ready, which ended up being when we found István. We went back to our roots with everything, drawing on our memories and traditions to find our unique voice. We had to be brave.’

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‘We went back to our roots with everything, drawing on our memories and traditions to find our unique voice’ Hubert HlatkySchlichter

It’s clearly been a tempestuous ride, though the staff are unwaveringly loyal to their boss, crediting him with giving them unparalleled freedom to develop their own ideas.

Hungarian wines

Below left: sommelier Péter Blazsovszky Below: paprika octopus with a balsamic veil

Nowhere is that more true than with sommelier Péter Blazsovszky, who has created a list of more than 200 Hungarian wines, mostly comprising bottles you simply wouldn’t find outside the country. In another point of difference, he recommends only white wines (and the occasional rosé) with Babel’s tasting menu – although you can of course order a bottle of red from the extensive list. Blazsovszky works closely with the kitchen, and the pairings he recommends, especially

In association with

Above: Babel’s head chef István Veres with owner Hubert Hlatky-Schlichter Left: Hubert HlatkySchlichter and Hine’s marketing manager MarieEmmanuelle Febvret

Above: Babel receives a jeroboam of H by Hine as an award prize

with the indigenous Hárslevelü and Juhfark varieties, are convincing. ‘With the wine matches I don’t have to correct the balance of the food, because the dishes are perfectly balanced already,’ he explains. ‘My goal is to find a wine match with exactly the same balance – and that can be very exciting.’ He also eschews big names in favour of smaller, less well-known winemakers. ‘I don’t tend to recommend famous wines as some hit the jackpot only once in a lifetime with a perfect vintage. Obviously I try to buy those, but I’m always looking for interesting and special wines that can’t be reproduced. I always try to give small, unknown wineries a chance. ‘That said, we start and finish our menu with Alpha and Omega from the Kaláka winery in Tallya in the Tokaj wine region. The winemaker, László Alkonyi, has arguably been Hungary’s best wine writer of the past two decades and then he turned his hand to winemaking,’ he explains.

‘I’m always looking for interesting and special wines that can’t be reproduced. I always try to give small, unknown wineries a chance’ Péter Blazsovszky

Blazsovszky’s main regret is that most of the bottles he stocks are opened too young. ‘We Hungarians like robbing the cradle. Wines live as we do. They’re born, become a child, teenager, young man, a man in his prime, then become old, wise and finally die. But we drink wines at the age of a child. It’s a huge mistake.’ I asked Hungarian food critic Andras Jokut how he placed Babel among the world’s top restaurants. ‘In my view, it is the first really successful attempt to create a contemporary Hungarian fine-dining restaurant,’ he says. ‘It is not easy to do in a country where most of the popular dishes are slow-cooked fatty meats, but they’ve nailed it. ‘Babel could have a similar effect as Noma had first on Copenhagen and later Scandinavia – at least on a smaller scale: to wake the interest of diners all over the world to a fantastic country with great traditions,’ adds Jokut. So Babel might be the new Noma. You heard it here first! D Babel, Piarista Köz 2, 1052 Budapest;; +36 70 6000 800. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm-12pm. Tasting menu: HUF30,500 (£88)/six courses, HUF45,000 (£129)/nine courses Wine pairing: HUF9500 (£27)/HUF11,000 (£32) Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2018 | 9 9



Baja California Enjoy a Mexican adventure in the vibrant Valle de Guadalupe. Sorrel Moseley-Williams shares her tips for the region’s best wineries and restaurants

FACT FILE Planted area 4,000ha Main grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Grenache, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Barbera, Misión; Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc Production 18m litres in 2016 Main soil types Sand, clay, granite






lf o nia

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Valle de Guadalupe


Valle de Guadalupe

5 3

From Tijuana

Francisco Zarco

El Porvenir


8 6


Ruta del Vino


Carretera 1 Motorway





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Hacienda La Lomita Finca La Carrodilla Torres Alegre y Familia Mina Penélope Château Camou Vid y el Vino wine museum Deckman’s en el Mogor Adobe Guadalupe



4 3

Pacific Ocean

San Antonio de las Minas

El Sauzal

5 kilometres

Tecate 1



Playas de Rosarito 1D

Ensenada 0



Pacific Ocean


Ensenada 1




Photograph: Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo. Maps: Maggie Nelson

Pacific Ocean

The pioneers Santo Tomás, Mexico’s first winery, was originally based in Ensenada, its former premises now a historical tasting room. A century later, Fernando Martain at Cavas Valmar made good with inherited vineyards. He says: ‘Twenty years ago, there were 11 wineries and not even the local government believed in us. But we’re now planning a restaurant!’ His Cabernet Sauvignon is a fine introduction to Baja’s wines. ➢

Los Angeles San Diego


THE MISION GRAPE is responsible for Vitis vinifera’s first appearance in the Americas. Setting up missions the length of Mexico’s 1,190km Baja California peninsula in the 16th century, Jesuit monks planted vineyards to provide their sacramental wine. It’s taken 400 years, however, for the city of Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe in the state’s north to blossom as an enterprising wine region. A 90-minute drive south of Tijuana, the semi-desert climate and Pacific Ocean collude to create high-alcohol, tannic reds. Bordeaux styles ruled northern Baja California when Monte Xanic (, Château Camou ( and Cavas Valmar (Riveroll 1950, Ensenada; +52 1 646 178 6405) first set up shop here 30 years ago. Still going strong, these wineries kicked off the premium wine revolution, joining pioneer Bodegas de Santo Tomás ( in 1888 and Pernod Ricard-owned Domecq (Km73.5, Carretera 3) among others. Fast-forward three decades and NebbioloCabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo-Grenache and GSM blends are the norm. Whites with surprising acidity also abound, Chenin Blanc ruling the roost with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in fast pursuit. Meanwhile, Misión is seeing a revival in rosé format.

Above: desert views from the village of La Ventana in the east of the Baja California peninsula

MY PERFECT DAY IN VALLE DE GUADALUPE MORNING After ‘the best breakfast in the world’ at La Cocina de Doña Esthela*, visit the hip Hacienda La Lomita ( Winemaker Gustavo González applies Napa know-how to his old-vine Grenache Págano; he also heads biodynamic sister winery Finca La Carrodilla. Afterwards, stop by Torres Alegre y Familia (Calle No/52, Ejido el Porvenir), a family-run garagiste winery that experiments with 60-year-old vines. Victor Torres Alegre was the first Mexican to take an oenology PhD.

LUNCH Refuel at Familia Samarin (Calle Principal 276), an authentic Russian diner dating to 1905 that turns out fine borscht and chipotle almonds – a nod to the valley’s migrant past; also drop by its tiny wine

Rolland to set standards; today, he is ramping up the Bordeaux-style repertoire to include Zinfandel and Chardonnay.


Escolar from Malva museum and local produce store. Or, dine al fresco at Malva*; experimental Mina Penélope, whose vineyards cocoon the restaurant, is the wine list’s star act.

AFTERNOON Drive 20 minutes to Château Camou (see main text, opposite), stopping at the Vid y el Vino wine museum. In 1996, Camou owner Fernando Favela-Vara hired Michel

Deckman’s en el Mogor (www.deckmans. com) is a success story, with Michelinstarred US chef Drew Deckman creating an exciting farm-to-table al fresco dining experience. The five-step paired tasting menu prepped in the outdoor kitchen might include braised beef cheek or pan-fried quail. Fifteen minutes’ drive away is Adobe Guadalupe*, a stunning colonial-style lodge. Luxurious quarters overlook the courtyard; take in a postbreakfast tasting at Adobe’s winery. *For full details of venues marked with an asterisk (*), see p103

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Leaving Ensenada, drive 20 minutes northeast to Francisco Zarco, more commonly known as Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s booming valley that produces 90% of Mexico’s wine. Here, it scarcely rains (200mm a year) and summer temperatures reach 45°C, with Pacific breezes ensuring cool nights. A decade ago, sandy roads cutting through olive groves were the way in, and while the now-paved Carreteras 3 and 1 highways run east-west, dirt tracks criss-cross them – a reminder of the less-developed times. Even locals express surprise at the pace of developments; when land was a snip in 2012, at US$10,000 a hectare, a winery opened every two months, successful projects later spawning a restaurant or B&B. Guadalupe’s 30km Ruta del Vino now houses 90 tasting rooms, often designed by big-name architects, which don’t necessarily match the dusty palm-and-vine landscape. Modern wineries and glamping complexes share the valley with street-food carts and farm-to-table restaurants.

New generation


Today’s boom was a happy accident. When agronomist Hugo D’Acosta returned to Mexico in 1988 after stints in Montpellier in France and California’s Napa, to head Santo Tomás, he realised that growers needed to improve their skills and set up La Escuelita (‘little school’) for wannabe winemakers. This initiative helped fast-track the industry, taking those original pioneers to 150 today, including his own Casa de Piedra (www.vinoscasadepiedra. com). British-born Mancunian Phil Gregory of Vena Cava ( and Amado Garza Vargas of Viñas de Garza (www. are successful graduates. ‘We’re the first generation of modern Mexican viticultors,’ says Swiss winemaker Christoph Gaertner, who in 2002 co-founded Vinisterra ( ; the Pedregal Syrah-Mourvedre is his top wine. ‘We’ve consolidated a new version of Mexican wine in a short time.’ Other oenologist imports include Chile’s Daniel Lonnberg at Adobe Guadalupe (, Spain’s Dr Cristina Pino Villar at Monte Xanic and Argentina’s Sergio Heras at Château Camou. ‘Valle de Guadalupe’s model has mainly been European and it’s still wet behind the ears. We now have to discover it for ourselves,’ Heras says. A new generation of young Mexican winemakers is also playing its part. With Bordeaux and California experience under his belt, Hans Backhoff Guerrero returned to Monte Xanic 10 years ago. And, after a decade at Château Brane-Cantenac, Henri Lurton

Fly to Tijuana, then it’s a 100km drive to Ensenada via the Carretera 1 highway. Or drive from the US via Interstate I-5, crossing the world’s busiest border at Tijuana.

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Above: traditional musical entertainment during the Fiestas de la Vendimia at Château Camou

larder is also

tasked Ensenada-born Lourdes Martínez Ojeda with setting up one of Baja’s most ambitious projects (; 2017 was the third vintage, with barrel-fermented Le Syrah and lees-driven Centenario Chenin Blanc setting new standards.

drawing in

Main attractions

‘Baja’s abundant

innovative chefs who’ve turned the region into Mexico’s most exciting foodie hub’

The valley is busy at weekends, with San Diego wine aficionados diversifying away from Napa; tasting flights are far more affordable here, starting at 100 pesos (£6), and visitors get by with little Spanish. Beer- and tequila-loving Mexicans are also coming round to their wine. Baja’s abundant larder is also drawing in innovative chefs who’ve turned the region into Mexico’s most exciting foodie hub. Rich Pacific pickings include bluefin tuna and oysters from Bahía Falsa, and farm-to-table concepts are normal practice. Save the dates for April’s week-long wine and seafood festival and August’s Fiestas de la Vendimia (vintage


YOUR BAJA CALIFORNIA ADDRESS BOOK ACCOMMODATION Adobe Guadalupe Dutch expat Tru Miller’s initial sixroom project expanded to include a winery, food truck, equine breeding centre, restaurant and underground tasting room while retaining a home-away-from-home ambience.

La Cocina Doña Esthela

Cuatro Cuatros, El Tigre

Photograph: Angus Taylor/Cephas

Above: Adobe Guadalupe winery, run by Dutch expat Tru Miller

festival). Fine-dining spots Corazón de Tierra, Laja and Manzanilla regularly rank in top restaurants lists: don’t forget Don Leo’s lamb taco cart on Carretera 3 at Villa de Juárez. Developments, meanwhile, show little sign of slowing. Vena Cava is building a second winery, while Lurton and Valmar are finishing tasting rooms. As low water-table levels and ill-considered land division are cause for concern, some have expanded operations into Ojos Negros and Santo Tomás valleys. To the east at 800m above sea level, Ojos Negros has cool evenings and, crucially, plenty of water. San Rafael ( has been a lone winemaking wolf here for 18 years, though Monte Xanic recently bought 80ha. The Antigua Ruta del Vino (Old Wine Route) around Santo Tomás has new players besides its eponymous pioneer. Fourth-generation vintner Omar Meza at Cava Santo Domingo ( produces exciting blends such as his five-red Tintero, while Aldo César Palafox ( plays with Rioja and Bordeaux varieties. With wine, lodgings and restaurants to suit all budgets, Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe are accessible. But to survive the next 30 years and beyond, the region needs to take sensible, not short-sighted decisions; it would be tragic if the valley became a victim of its own success. For now you can savour chilled Misión rosé by your glamping tent, sipping the past while imagining Baja California’s future. D Sorrel Moseley-Williams is a food, wine and travel journalist and sommelier based in Buenos Aires

Pitch up under luxury canvas at this 13-tent glamping complex in Valle de Guadalupe’s west. Enjoy an in/out rain shower and stunning sunset vistas from the hillside bar. You can sample the maritime Sauvignon Blanc at the minimalist winery.

Hacienda Guadalupe In the hills, 16 spacious colonial-style rooms are set among vineyards and bougainvillea overlooking the valley. Sample the Melchum Tempranillo or house brew Liebre IPA with roast lamb at the hacienda’s restaurant. The Vid y el Vino wine museum is opposite.

Hotel Coral & Marina, Ensenada A mid-sized resort in an ocean-side location with its own marina. Easy access to wine country plus a burst of city life. The Mexican buffet breakfast is the ideal lining for a day’s tasting.

RESTAURANTS La Cocedora de Langosta, Ensenada This classic harbourside joint offers the freshest catches. Start with zesty shrimp ceviche, then enjoy the fried lobster paired with a glass of Monte Xanic’s Sauvignon Blanc.

La Cocina Doña Esthela, Rancho San Marcos Initially feeding hungry workers building nearby Hacienda La Lomita from her home, Esthela’s machaca de res con huevo (rehydrated beef and

egg), sweetcorn pancakes and café de olla (cinnamon-infused coffee) are now a draw for Mexicans and visitors alike. +52 646 156 8453

Malva, San Antonio de Las Minas Chef Roberto Alcocer only uses kitchen garden and local produce at this farm-to-table restaurant. Enjoy rosemary-smoked bonito and spiced pumpkin crème brûlée on the roofed wooden terrace. es-la.facebook. com/MalvaCocinaDeBajaCalifornia

Manzanilla, Ensenada Ranking in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list for its sustainable perspective. Artfully plated oysters and quail feature on the tasting menu.

ACTIVITIES Cheese route, Ojos Negros A valley known for its Ruta del Queso, where Belted Galloway cattle roam. Visit La Cava de Marcelo for two-year aged cheese and lavender ice cream. +52 646 117 0293

Kayaking, La Bufadora Start your day with a 90-minute trip to the impressive La Bufadora marine blowhole. Just 45 minutes from Ensenada, you’ll make it back in time for lunch.

Margarita’s birthplace, Ensenada Sample this classic cocktail at Bar Andaluz, the legendary Mexican watering-hole where tequila, triple sec, salt and lemons first met.

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2 018 | 10 3



Each month our experts answer readers’ wine queries and share their knowledge

Email: Post: The Editor, Decanter, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU, UK

This month’s experts

Andy Howard MW is a wine consultant who writes and judges regularly for Decanter

Richard Mayson is DWWA Regional Chair for Port & Madeira, and author of Madeira, The Islands and Their Wines

What is struck match? I’ve recently seen ‘struck match’ used in tasting notes, in a positive sense. I understood it to be a fault in wine. Can you tell me what it is and how it differs from reduction? Tim Seo, France Andy Howard MW replies: The term ‘struck match’ is often found in descriptions of white wines, and most commonly those made from the Chardonnay grape. This style is often associated with some great white Burgundy domaines such as Coche-Dury and Leflaive, but can also be enjoyed at a more accessible price point – in Shaw & Smith Chardonnays from Australia, for instance. In simple terms, reduction can be seen as an opposite to oxidative styles of winemaking. However, the subject of reduction (and reductive winemaking) is a highly complex one, as reduction can range from being a positive style and methodology, to a severe wine fault. Reduction is caused by yeasts that interact with sulphur-containing compounds and amino-acids, and is exacerbated by complex reactions during winemaking and subsequent maturation. At the extreme, reduction (through the negative influence of hydrogen sulphide) gives rise to mercaptans – compounds characterised by aromas of cabbage, rubber or rotten eggs.

Leaking Madeira My parents bought a bottle of 1930 Madeira in 1984 when on holiday in Portugal. They

John Stimpfig is content director of Decanter

Say what you see The one-word answer is a New Zealand producer (see p90 for a clue) For the answer, see p61

10 4 | F e b r u a r y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

have been saving it for a special occasion, but have just discovered that it has been leaking. They think it has been leaking for a month or two and aren’t sure whether it’s safe to drink? Jennifer Caine, by email Richard Mayson replies: You don’t say what the Madeira is, but I expect it is an old bottle and that the cork has deteriorated. Madeira producers tend to use very short corks, largely due to the fact that Madeira bottles should be stored standing up rather than lying horizontally. The cork is merely there as a barrier rather than a seal, as the wine has gone through a long, controlled oxidation process from ageing in cask (a minimum of 20 years for vintage or frasqueira wines). So don’t worry too much if the bottle has been leaking, even for a month or two. Stand it up and re-cork it if you want to keep it longer. Or decant it from any sediment and drink it over the next year or two. A well-aged Madeira comes to very little harm on ullage (gap between cork and wine) and it will certainly be safe to drink!

Tirage vs dosage What is the difference between tirage and dosage in the production of Champagne? Ben Jenkins, Sidmouth John Stimpfig replies: Both additions are key elements in the winemaking process for Champagne and all bottle-fermented sparkling wine. Liqueur de tirage is a liquid solution of yeast, wine and sugar that is added to the still base wine in order to create the secondary fermentation in bottle. The amount of sugar determines the level of dryness in the wine as well as the atmospheric pressure in the bottle. The dosage is the amount of sugar in the liqueur d’expedition (a mix of sugar and wine), which is added just after disgorgement. This not only tops up the wine, it also helps balance the acidity and add sweetness – depending on the style (see below). As all the yeasts have either been consumed or expelled at the point of disgorgement, there is no chance of a third fermentation in bottle. Some Champagnes are now labelled as

Tasting notes decoded


Written by Laura Seal

Jammy The term jammy is usually applied to red wines that are low in acidity but high in alcohol, such as Zinfandel or Shiraz. It describes ripened or cooked fruit, in which the pungency and sweetness is intensified compared to fresh fruit flavours. Jammy is associated with red fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, as well as darker fruits such as blackcurrants and blackberries â&#x20AC;&#x201D; essentially fruits you can imagine making into jam. As a fault, it can express poor growing conditions in which the vines are overexposed to heat and sunlight. This causes the grapes to ripen too quickly, and the resultant wines can develop a cloying fruit sweetness with a flabby mouthfeel. New York-based wine writer Robert Haynes-Peterson notes that Pinot Noir wines are most at risk, as these thin-skinned grapes are â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;intolerant of high temperatures which results in jammy, rather than fruit-driven, winesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. However, some people see jamminess as adding a complex, concentrated fruitiness. Mateticâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s EQ Syrah from Chileâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s San Antonio Valley was praised by Decanterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s James Button for its â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;multi-layered jammy and savoury elementsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, and our experts also appreciated it in Domaine Moutonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s CĂ´te-RĂ´tie 2015, rated Highly Recommended (see p83).


non-dosĂŠ, zĂŠro dosage or brut nature (the official term), which means that no sugar was added to the liqueur dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;expedition. Brut Nature: no added sugar and less than 3 grams/litre of residual sugars Extra-Brut: between 0g/l and 6g/l of residual sugars Brut: less than 12g/l of residual sugars Extra Sec/Extra Dry: between 12g/l and 17g/l of residual sugars Sec/Dry: between 17g/l and 32g/l of residual sugars Demi-Sec: between 32g/l and 50g/l of residual sugars D

Confused by a label? Unsure how to serve a wine? A burning bottle question on your mind? Ask Decanterâ&#x20AC;Ś Our expert contributors are here to advise on any aspect of wine. Each month we will print the most interesting queries with a personal reply from a relevant expert. Simply email with your question â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the more specific, the better â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in no more than a single paragraph, and you could see your query, and a reply, in print. Please note we can only respond to those queries selected for publication.



Compiled by Laura Seal

Burgundy demand soaring The region’s appeal continues apace, with cult domaines still the auction stars. But affording them will be even harder following the frost-hit 2016 vintage

Domaine Armand Rousseau, Chambertin 2010 Above: consumers’ insatiable thirst for Burgundy shows no bounds insatiable thirst for Burgundy at the moment, and I think the market will continue to expand next year,’ Sotheby’s European head of wine Stephen Mould said. ‘DRC still leads from the front, but it is no longer the only story,’ said Gibbs. ‘Burgundy’s appeal among Asian buyers has spread. More recently Rousseau has become turbo-charged, but so too domaines such as Leroy, de Vogüé and Roumier as buyers scramble to secure their grand crus.’ Nevertheless, fine wine buyers’ attention remains

concentrated on a small group of cult producers. When this is considered alongside production shortages in recent vintages, it seems continual price rises could push these wines further out of reach for many long-term Burgundy enthusiasts. Corney & Barrow’s head of fine wine, Will Hargrove, said the 2016 en primeur campaign was a ‘big variable’, with frost cutting yields by 50% to 100%. ‘The crop is small. It’s a heady cocktail when demand is strong but production is down.’

Bespoke leather-clad barrels link LVMH labels Luxury goods group LVMH has brought together its Spanish winery Bodega Numanthia and its fashion label Loewe to launch bespoke barrels of Tinta de Toro covered in personalised calf leather. Costing £95,000, the

Following news of its limited-edition bottle to honour Paul Pontallier, the 2015 vintage is now nudging £10,000 a case, compared to its £4,250 release price in summer 2016.

barrels are only available ‘on-demand’ by contacting the winery, an LVMH spokesperson told Decanter. Barrels contain the 2016 vintage of Bodega Numanthia’s single-estate Termanthia wine, made in Castilla y León from 140-year-old Tempranillo vines. Each 225-litre, French oak barrel holds the equivalent of

10 6 | F e b r u a r y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

300 bottles of wine. When the wine is ready for release, buyers can have the barrel delivered to their house and covered in personalised calf leather by the designers at the Madrid fashion house Loewe. The move suggests there could be more collaboration to come within the LVMH portfolio of fine wine and fashion brands.

Overall, the past 10 physical vintages of this wine are up 84.5% compared with five years ago. The 2010 made a 30% price jump over the past year.

Château Rieussec 2014 Praised as a 95-point ‘standout’ wine by Decanter’s Bordeaux’s en primeur team, this wine is nevertheless falling prey to the broader Sauternes decline; its market value has fallen by more than 10% over the past year.

Château L’EgliseClinet 2013 One of a string of Right Bank drifters, this wine’s value fell by almost 17% in the space of 12 months, dropping well below its release price.

All figures from Liv-ex 14/11/17, unless otherwise stated

EXPERTS BELIEVE THE ‘relentless rise’ of Burgundy shows no signs of abating, but lower yields in 2016 (see p18) could make it even harder for investors to acquire the most renowned names. ‘While 2016 was dominated by a long-awaited bounce in Bordeaux sales, the star of 2017 was undoubtedly Burgundy,’ said Liv-ex director, Justin Gibbs. Burgundy’s share of trade on the Liv-ex platform rose from 8% in 2016 to 12.5% in 2017. Predictably, fine-wine heavyweight Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) leads the way, consistently among the top lots in wine auctions worldwide. Sotheby’s auctions in New York, London and Hong Kong last year all saw DRC lots sell well above their pre-sale high estimates. One case of DRC 2009 was sold in London for £54,050, against a pre-sale top estimate of £26,000. ‘There is an

Château Margaux 2015

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Fine wine price watch Below are the most recent merchant case prices (equivalent 12 x 750ml bottles) for wines that are actively traded among a global network of merchants on Liv-ex, the fine wine market. Liv-ex records transactions between its merchant members in the UK, US, Asia and Europe. All prices are in GBP and exclude sales tax. The numbers in red indicate those prices which have changed since last month.

Bordeaux prices Red Bordeaux




















7500 43200 17000 9600 8849

5172 7200 4800 4824 4450

4126 12450 4400 4952 8995

3900 7700 5250 3950 3967

17000 7200 4600 4250 4819

6561 7800 6608 9950 4361

4218 7400 5000 4652 4776

3840 9600 6250 6200 4826

4196 7500 4450 3850 4698

6650 13900 8150 8200 18100

3600 6700 4560 3950 4430

3300 3400 3800 2126 2812 3761 2400 1980 6841

1517 1376 860 1170 962 2635 860 1373 1850

1600 1550 2409 1150 956 3550 2169 1500 1818

1382 1276 1052 1020 1036 1590 1163 1359 1800

1466 1296 1056 1200 1095 1820 4500 2890 1384

1790 1303 1900 1420 2950 2600 5530 2750 1380

1500 1458 931 920 843 1800 1072 1200 2046

1490 1850 794 850 1100 2426 1340 1330 2060

1195 1220 630 720 680 1526 950 1200 1250

1550 1795 994 1120 1420 2450 1450 1920 2007

1200 1200 650 700 680 1320 984 1160 1290

1818 778 2300

1951 555 2300

1200 875 1950

990 896 2762

1803 750 3200

1482 1432 2600

976 709 1915

860 700 1851

816 560 2021

924 680 2750

740 437 2000

1980 2000 2366

1112 1051 1001

1028 1070 1190

1068 739 803

1073 674 795

984 1010 894

1095 629 895

950 864 875

943 656 600

1513 980 790

869 695 590

2600 1032 2650 1600

880 600 2128 708

1354 638 2150 720

818 553 1494 874

950 520 3281 900

2250 695 3350 1663

975 574 1395 802

1025 519 1600 774

579 485 1126 744

1000 540 2050 995

560 330 1195 692

1350 1172 1980 2934

2076 325 1876 1784

3258 717 1647 2039

2480 737 2210 1660

2200 2112 1792 1427

2750 1494 1740 1882

3194 747 1749 1750

2615 1000 1191 1750 1750

2850 1150 2196 1914 1740

2930 1170 2020 2395 1890

2616 1350 1712 1805 1680

1411 1064

604 1024

580 614

656 495

535 557

638 1112

318 537

365 550

291 420

328 475

361 500

1405 820 8460 1266 1163

871 1120 3216 1174 749

840 908 2143 1095 402

620 898 2062 1496 535

850 960 13650 1290 1005

1950 918 6404 1600 1111

500 764 1977 880 820

656 740 1980 888 650

620 820 2964 1275 839

795 852 5200 1499 1233

520 750 1880 1170 1308

3375 6670 8500 896 3026 2278 1511

4500 5538 4800 1161 1500 1860 777

2371 3828 3989 1130 1993 2428 765

3600 3752 3876 1621 1526 2221 684

4800 3264 3749 1266 1550 2117 1800

6400 5000 9800 1140 2776 1800 3052

3400 4800 4395 700 1450 2109 710

2850 5173 4200 700 1376 2302 501

3450 5500 5950 1280 1826 2664 872

5100 10450 7100 1157 1790 5500 1150

3252 5400 3900 925 1800 2800 700

La Conseillante L’Eglise-Clinet L’Evangile Lafleur La Fleur-Pétrus Le Pin Petrus Trotanoy Vieux Château Certan

4500 1352 4950 35232 3738 196200 47500 4500 2812

3272 3225 2137 11464 2039 19691 19000 1772 1846

1699 1832 884 7570 2174 10620 19842 1660 1674

1750 1244 1360 5510 2195 18151 19042 1395 1679

3538 2200 2677 9586 2878 31872 42000 1942 1800

3800 4330 2948 17076 3680 40879 38598 2616 2507

1400 1840 1322 3975 1950 18300 24000 1784 1200

1075 1155 1250 3407 1956 16500 21265 1250 1200

1580 2550 1770 4500 2400 30754 30000 2960 2340

1950 2785 2659 12776 2500 38940 42499 2544 1961

1295 1800 1249 5000 1700 31932 22000 1750 1650
























1421 806 816 8468

464 608 339 365 3000

1031 562 1032 612 2400

840 495 535 415 2650

695 512 568 454 2500

1080 450 565 540 2500

600 312 360 461 2035

570 330 290 354 1895

358 330 370 340 2021

529 203 700 372 2362

1650 360 840 540 4320

First Growths Haut-Brion Lafite Latour Margaux Mouton Rothschild

1998 2000 2001

Second Growths Cos d’Estournel Ducru-Beaucaillou Gruaud-Larose Léoville Barton Léoville-Poyferré Léoville-Las-Cases Montrose Pichon Baron Pichon Comtesse

Third Growths Calon-Ségur Lagrange Palmer

Fourth Growths Beychevelle Duhart-Milon Talbot

Fifth Growths Grand-Puy-Lacoste Haut-Batailley Lynch-Bages Pontet-Canet

Second wines Carruades de Lafite Le Clarence de Haut-Brion* Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild Les Forts de Latour Pavillon Rouge

Médoc Crus Bourgeois Chasse-Spleen Sociando-Mallet

Pessac-Léognan Domaine de Chevalier Haut-Bailly La Mission Haut-Brion Pape Clément Smith Haut Lafitte

St-Emilion Angélus Ausone Cheval Blanc Clos Fourtet Figeac Pavie Troplong-Mondot


Climens Coutet (Barsac) Rieussec Suduiraut Yquem

* Formerly named Château Bahans Haut-Brion; beginning with the 2007 vintage, it was renamed Le Clarence de Haut-Brion

10 8 | F e b r u a r y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

The Liv-ex 100 Index

Index level at end of November 2017

| 312.96 | +1.30%

The Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 Index represents the price movement of 100 of the most sought-after fine wines for which there is a strong secondary market and is calculated monthly. The majority of the index consists of Bordeaux wines – a reflection of the overall market – although wines from Burgundy, the Rhône, Champagne and Italy are also included. The index is calculated using Liv-ex Mid Prices and is then weighted to account for original production levels and increasing scarcity as the wine ages. As such, the index is designed to give each wine a weighting that corresponds with its impact on the overall market.

The Liv-ex 100 Index was rebased at 100 in January 2004.

Red Bordeaux























3350 6600 4600 3773 420

3750 9100 7150 4700 4840

3400 6480 4350 3600 4300

6300 7640 6900 6100 5200

3450 6450 4590 3750 4450

3250 6450 4100 3600 4000

3550 7200 4600 3750 4200

6380 7450 9900 6560 5700

6654 7200 11300 6550 5950

3300 4800 4570 3560 3723

3400 4750 3550 3668

1030 1100 638 630 595 1480 701 990 1150

1580 1425 580 922 1100 1600 1720 1200 1250

1055 1200 627 595 660 1350 800 1000 1000

1550 1820 717 930 860 2100 1250 1190 1028

1010 1175 583 636 625 1341 780 1020 1000

946 1080 520 570 575 1250 682 995 830

980 1150 685 660 648 1250 775 1020 940

2400 2350 750 790 1760 2150 2240 1320 1300

1682 1750 640 970 1052 1875 2000 1350 1340

957 926 478 480 531 1150 660 790 802

920 881 492 520 510 1137 660 770 802

760 315 1800

850 480 1724

700 400 1770

850 500 2495

750 426 1875

740 380 1713

780 375 1800

840 425 2400

860 440 2700

688 285 1820

773 276 1734

900 680 696

900 750 640

900 948 600

995 820 675

900 700 540

785 660 540

850 638 525

868 770 550

840 700 550

783 560 430

760 540 420

Beychevelle Duhart-Milon Talbot

385 415 1040 620

480 417 1260 795

420 450 1050 625

860 450 1250 1100

480 310 1000 707

440 300 975 610

400 339 1045 690

620 360 1320 1590

680 360 1188 1625

380 246 780 568

370 310 800 580

Grand-Puy-Lacoste Haut-Batailley Lynch-Bages Pontet-Canet

3360 942 1451 1650 1696

4339 1000 1687 1800 1860

2765 890 2218 1705 1600

2700 955 2236 1790 1800

2750 840 1920 1880 1660

2860 947 1960 1924 1755

2520 1017 2100 1677 1620

2490 946 2050 1780 1650

2530 990 1900 1870 1630

2440 849 1998 1650 1542

254 286

310 420

295 286

352 420

323 299

349 244

261 340

287 307

301 278

244 218

195 207

Chasse-Spleen Sociando-Mallet

455 475 1500 840 800

396 874 1720 1000 680

440 550 1580 780 990

750 1000 4500 1500 1150

480 580 1650 880 749

400 480 1450 740 720

480 700 1640 882 592

600 1700 4800 1400 2148

640 1170 4552 1780 1117

370 580 1600 705 595

428 595 1820 763 621

Domaine de Chevalier Haut-Bailly La Mission Haut-Brion Pape Clément Smith Haut Lafitte

2945 4300 3786 501 1023 2600 514

3400 8800 3780 1330 1021 2800 612

2999 4100 3780 750 964 2400 564

4400 12000 6300 1420 1580 3649 1950

3100 4900 4014 720 1080 2550 840

3000 3760 3700 691 856 2249 595

2978 4600 3700 750 900 2240 638

3300 11257 6800 2200 1750 3150 1250

3200 10500 8400 1140 1842 3266 1220

2522 4400 3650 765 840 1915 650

3150 4200 3695 696 818 2500 630

840 857 989 2760 1646 19950 20646 1140 1200

1113 900 736 3950 1490 21000 1406 1213

780 890 960 3000 1546 21169 23000 1100 1173

1980 4286 2150 13252 1900 30000 28000 2650 1850

980 1340 995 3800 1650 19800 20000 1300 1450

750 841 840 3220 1550 17662 18650 900 1010

900 1240 1374 3900 1600 22000 21800 1750 1150

1450 2850 2850 11800 2100 37200 32000 2640 2500

1580 2600 1874 10800 2158 36000 31000 2200 2750

740 900 883 3100 1350 19148 18500 1080 1075

1000 1780 900 3800 1450 19800 20000 1650 1207

La Conseillante L’Eglise-Clinet L’Evangile Lafleur La Fleur-Pétrus Le Pin Petrus Trotanoy Vieux Château Certan
























599 203 290 270 1850

450 230 300 300 1800

310 231 260 312 1847

710 240 375 350 2200

425 225 265 300 1961

650 320 265 330 2200

425 321 280 352 1800

500 328 340 450 3800

525 370 300 374 3150

700 428 287 386 2220

437 295 299 1920

First Growths Haut-Brion Lafite Latour Margaux Mouton Rothschild

Second Growths Cos d’Estournel Ducru-Beaucaillou Gruaud-Larose Léoville Barton Léoville-Poyferré Léoville-Las-Cases Montrose Pichon Baron Pichon Comtesse

Third Growths Calon-Ségur Lagrange Palmer

Fourth Growths

Fifth Growths

Second wines 2500 Carruades de Lafite 850 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion* 2000 Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild Les Forts de Latour 1542 Pavillon Rouge

Médoc Crus Bourgeois Pessac-Léognan

St-Emilion Angélus Ausone Cheval Blanc Clos Fourtet Figeac Pavie Troplong-Mondot


Climens Coutet (Barsac) Rieussec Suduiraut Yquem

D E C A N T E R • F e b r u a r y 2 018 | 10 9

Fine wine price watch

Italy 2002











2005 2006 £







2012 £

Antinori, Guado Al Tasso












Bruno Giacosa, Barolo Falletto












Gaja, Barbaresco












Gaja, Gaia & Rey


































Gaja, Sperss Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino Luciano Sandrone, Barolo Cannubi Boschis











Luciano Sandrone, Barolo Vigne












Le Macchiole, Messorio







































































Soldera (Case Basse), Brunello di Montalcino



































Roberto Voerzio, Barolo Brunate

Tua Rita, Redigaffi

PLEASE NOTE: The Fine Wine Price Watch features monthly prices for the most traded Bordeaux wines and rotates coverage of Port & Champagne, Burgundy, Italy and a Rest of the World basket of fine wines from the Rhône, Spain, Australia, Chile and California.

BORDEAUX CELLARS Online fine wine trading platform

Bimonthly fine wine dining club World’s leading fine wine loan brokers paying investors 12% pa since 2011



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Wine Legends

M Chapoutier, Le Pavillon, Ermitage 1991 Rhône, France A legend because… In 1988 Michel Chapoutier took control of this distinguished Rhône producer in a kind of family coup. He soon made radical changes, such as throwing out ancient chestnut barrels and moving rapidly towards biodynamic farming. Another innovation was the release of very limited luxury cuvées from top appellations, such as white and red Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, all from very old vines. Some of these wines were aged entirely in new oak. They made an immediate impression and were hailed as among the greatest wines of the Rhône Valley.

Looking back This was a period of flux at Chapoutier, with Michel making his mark with great energy, not to say ruthlessness. By the late 1980s its big, burly, somewhat rustic wines were no longer selling and bankruptcy was looming. A cash injection from its American importer saved the day, but in return Michel was encouraged to take control and implement his innovative ideas. New bottlings showed more precision and freshness, while the special cuvées attracted attention – not only because of their high prices. The revolution was set to continue, with the acquisition of vineyards in Provence and Australia.

The vintage There was a tendency to underestimate 1991, as 1988, 1989 and 1990 were all sunny and hot. After a cold spring, the summer was pleasant but not especially hot, and there was some rain at harvest, so growers were on alert for rot. Picking for this wine took place on 10 October, and low yields gave fine concentration. Initially perceived as a lightweight vintage, it later became clear that wines from the best sites, such as Le Pavillon, had considerable staying power.

The terroir The grapes, from vines around 70 years old, were sourced from the oldest plants 114 | F e b r u a r y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

in the Les Bessards lieu-dit near the top of the Hermitage hill. They are planted on poor sedimentary soils over a granitic subsoil. This sector gives what are probably the most structured wines from the Hermitage hill.

The wine The grapes were destemmed before being treated to a cuvaison of four weeks in an old and unsealed oak vat. Extraction was achieved by punching down the cap once or twice a day. Fermentation took place at a temperature that did not exceed 32°C. After the wine had fermented to dryness it was aged for 12 months in older barrels acquired from Drouhin in Burgundy. No press wine was used, and it was bottled without filtration.

The reaction In 1996, Robert Parker hailed this as a ‘perfect wine... Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this should age effortlessly for three-plus decades... A seamless beauty!’ In 2011 Jamie Goode noted: ‘Very fine, fresh and bloody with lovely cherry fruit and some meatiness. Firm tannins... A fresh, vital and beautifully complex wine with some earthy, spicy maturity but also lovely freshness.’ In 2017 Matt Walls wrote: ‘Still seriously concentrated and remains remarkably youthful – this will last from now until 2040 with ease.’ In the same year Jeff Leve commented: ‘Powerful, big, full-bodied, rich and deep. Believe it or not, I think it needs more time to develop to its full potential. This is really such a super wine.’ D

THE FACTS Bottles produced 9,000 Composition 100% Syrah Yield 15hl/ha Alcohol 13.5% Release price 160 French Francs Price today £467 by Stephen Brook


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TrentinoAlto Adige


Campania Naples


Pu glia sili cat a


16 Cru-isation in Barolo Ca

Some producers in Piedmont’s prime territory are happy to follow the Burgundy model. But, says Michaela Morris, not all are in agreement



Tyrrhenian Sea

26 Pinot Noir: the best in Italy Long at home and now thriving in Italy’s cooler corners. Walter Speller picks 10 fine examples




36 Sparkling wine: Franciacorta A DOCG since 1995, this Lombardy region wants to take its message of quality and style further in international markets, reports Rebecca Gibb MW

44 Amarone buyer’s guide Michael Garner reveals all you need to know about one of Italy’s more complex wine styles




82 Aglianico in Campania Increased understanding of this ancient grape’s habits mean it is beginning to fulfil its potential as one of Italy’s very best, says Susan Hulme MW

52 My dream dozen Italian whites Looking to branch out from your regular Orvieto or Soave? Tom Hyland highlights 12 wines that illustrate the scope of Italy’s top-rank dry whites

86 Puglia: fighting for recognition The increasingly torrid climate is an issue, says Simon Woolf, but this southern region is a haven for native grapes with a contemporary attitude

60 Emilia Romagna

Cover photograph: Massimo Ripani/4Corners. Map: Maggie Nelson

Stephen Brook visits a lesser-known part of Italy’s wine country, to discover an array of styles from sparkling to sweet, and dry white to red

92 Expert’s choice: top Prosecco The ‘rive’ category encompasses some of its finest wines. Richard Baudains picks 18 favourites

66 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione revisited Some argue that the four-year-old top-end Tuscan classification causes confusion. Monty Waldin assesses how it’s bedding down

72 The making of Montalcino Past generations have drawn inspiration from the great French wine regions. But, says Monty Waldin, Brunello is now confident in its own skin

78 Regional profile: Colline Teramane, Abruzzo Full, herbal Montepulciano reds lead the way in this still-young DOCG, writes Susan Hulme MW



94 Italy’s best wine cooperatives


Simon Reilly finds great value and increasingly high-quality premium ranges, from north to south

100 Vermouth di Torino


Aperitif anyone? Michaela Morris discovers Piedmont’s favourite way to start the evening

102 Travel: Bolgheri Helen Farrell takes in the beautiful scenery and vinous delights of coastal Tuscany at its best Front cover: the castle of Castiglione Falletto and vineyards near Barolo in Piedmont D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 3

Italian icons you’ve never heard of Some of Italy’s best wines remain firmly under the radar for wine lovers. Richard Baudains finds out why, and shines a light on names that deserve icon status

Richard Baudains is a DWWA Regional co-Chair for Italy, and has written on the country’s wines for Decanter since 1989

WHAT EXACTLY MAKES a wine iconic is tricky to pin down, because the epithet does not denote any intrinsic quality but rather a status that may be acquired for a variety of reasons. Greatness clearly has something to do with it, but it is not exactly the same thing. For example, there are many great Barolos but few truly iconic ones, which suggests that being unique, special and different in some way plays a part in being iconic. At the same time, in the literal meaning of the word, iconic wines are a representation; the quintessential expression of something, which may be a terroir, or a grape variety, a person, a tradition or even a winemaking philosophy. Sassicaia is an icon of style and elegance, the charismatic Angelo Gaja an iconic producer, Quintarelli’s Amarone an icon of a unique tradition. Another characteristic is that wines attain iconic status over time, so history enters into the equation too. Iconic wines have a story to tell. They are often rare, and thus difficult to obtain, and this also adds to their aura. Icons inspire respect and admiration and even – taking up the religious connotation – a degree of devotion.

inspire the same level of devotion among their admirers but slip under the radar of the wine world at large. The reasons for this can be many. The first thing to say is that Italian wine is hard to get to know in depth. The country’s production is both huge and extremely diversified, and getting a handle on its literally thousands of DOCs and DOCGs, as well as the estimated 600 native varieties currently in use, is no easy task. All of this means that

Ardent admirers Which brings us to the important point: that iconic wines have a devoted following, but not necessarily among a wider public. Italy has many wines, such as Sassicaia, Gaja’s San Lorenzo and Quintarelli’s Amarone (to name but a few), that are recognised internationally as ‘iconic’, but there are many others which

‘Iconic wines have a devoted following, but not necessarily among a wider public’ 4 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Above: bottles from Valentini, which never opens its cellars to visitors


wines from lesser-known regions or minor varieties can often get overlooked.

Avignonesi, Occhio di Pernice, Vin Santo di Montepulciano, Tuscany 2002 98 £230/37.5cl

Hidden treasure In today’s world of global communication there are ways to overcome this, but icons will not always seek greater visibility and some even seem to shun it. If Valentini’s wines from Abruzzo are not more widely known, it might well be because, anachronistically, they have neither a website nor a published email address. Then there are commercial reasons. Many smaller producers have neither the time nor the resources to market themselves or develop effective channels of distribution. Finally, icons may lose visibility due to changing wine-drinking fashions. This is the case of sweet and fortified wines, for example – Italian specialities that are sadly disappearing from wine lists. For all these reasons, paradoxically in Italy, iconic wines can in some cases also be best kept secrets. The following is my selection of 12 lesser-known icons from across Italy.

The Sampler, WoodWinters

Sun-dried raisin notes followed by an array of fresh fig and saffron to mint, acacia and cigar leaf aromas. Staggering density of texture and a kaleidoscope of taste sensations; intensely sweet but with a great crunch of acidity through the long finish. Drink 2018-2050 Alcohol 12.5%

Q Which Italian icon wines do you think deserve wider appreciation? Let us know your selection at

Avignonesi Occhio di Pernice, Vin Santo di Montepulciano Vin santo has become something of a rarity in Tuscany. Occhio di Pernice is a rarity among rarities, because it is made in minute quantities and not with the usual white grapes, but with Sangiovese. Avignonesi has kept this almost-forgotten tradition alive in its most authentic form, drying the grapes naturally and leaving the concentrated sugary must to ferment and age on ‘mother’ yeasts for up to 15 years in small casks exposed to the heat and the cold of the changing seasons in an open loft on its Capezzine estate. The result is one of the most exclusive (and expensive) liquids in Italian wine. Production is variable, but typically consists of about 1,500 half bottles and a certain number of 100ml phials that you can slip into your hand-luggage for the flight home. Avignonesi was taken over in 2009 and converted to organic/biodynamic viticulture by the Belgian Virginie Saverys. ➢


I t a l y 2018 | 5

Bruno Giacosa Vigna Le Rocche, Falletto, Barolo Riserva Possibly Bruno Giacosa’s famously taciturn nature has contributed to the iconic status he enjoys, as a kind of paradoxical self-promotion in reverse. However that may be, behind those dark-rimmed spectacles lies one of Italy’s greatest wine producers of all time. He did his apprenticeship selecting grapes for the family business and used boughtin grapes for the first wines he made at his own company. In 1982 he acquired the 3ha Falletto vineyard at Serralunga, which is the source of his Barolo. Southwest-facing in a natural amphitheatre, with sandstone and silty marl soils, it is by common consensus one of the finest crus of the Langhe. Giacosa once said that he preferred his wines to speak for him and this perhaps explains his legendary perfectionism. He will never bottle a wine until he considers it ready and will never bring out a vintage unless it completely convinces him, which makes the release of the Vigna Le Rocche Riserva a truly iconic event.

Bruno Giacosa, Vigna Le Rocche, Falletto, Barolo Riserva, Piedmont 2011 97 POA WoodWinters Immediate rush of aroma on the nose; prune, nutmeg, pressed flowers, a touch of camphor, a hint of bay leaf and then the most classic tar and roses. Round, deep, broad and richly textured on the palate; still very compact but already majestic. Drink 2019-2031 Alc 14.5%

6 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Braida Bricco dell’Uccellone, Barbera d’Asti Braida’s Bricco dell’Uccellone is iconic because, although is was possibly not the very first Barbera to age in barrique, it was the one that created the genre that launched humble Barbera into the realms of the super-premium in the early 1980s. It also owed a lot in the past to the charismatic, larger-than-life figure of its creator Giacomo Bologna and to the involvement of the legendary critic and philosopher of Italian wine, Luigi ‘Gino’ Veronelli, in the concept of the project. Their genial intuition that new oak would harmonise with Barbera to turn the variety into a wine of silky smooth elegance, marked a new epoch for Italian wine. Bologna’s son and daughter continue production today from the same southfacing single-vineyard plot at Rocchetta Tanaro in Asti. The label, in itself an icon, remains unchanged from the original.


Bucci Villa Bucci, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Ampelio Bucci (by strange coincidence his name comes from the same Greek root as ‘ampelography’) has defined himself as a collector of old vines. In the 20 or so years that he has been producing wine on the estate founded by his father, he has sought out and acquired abandoned plots in the calcareous hills of Castelli di Jesi in the Marche to put together a total of 31ha, 25ha of which are planted to Verdicchio. Each plot is harvested and vinified separately and in the case of the Villa Bucci, aged for at least a year in large traditional Slavonian oak barrels which themselves are 80 years old. The wines for the riserva are then assembled by Bucci and longstanding oenologist and master taster Giorgio Grai. The procedure is unique among Verdicchios and with few parallels in Italian white winemaking at large; and the result is wine with terroir as its raison d’être. ➢

Bucci, Villa Bucci, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva, Marches 2014 95 £33.99 Liberty Fresh and intense aromas of pear skins and bay leaf. Great concentrated presence on the palate, which is bone-dry, crisp and nervy with tangy lemon rind and a nuance of spearmint. Long and flinty on the finish. Signs off with a hint of white pepper. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13%

Photograph: REDA/Alamy

Braida, Bricco dell’Uccellone, Barbera d’Asti , Piedmont 2015 95 £44 Fine & Rare An explosion of black cherry, sandalwood and sweet spices on the nose. Exuberant fruit reinforced by steely acidity on the palate, finely woven oak tannins and a long finish, which is pure wild berries and violets. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15%


I t a l y 2018 | 7


Caggiano Vigna Macchia dei Gotti, Taurasi Taurasi has been called the Barolo of the south. The Aglianico grape from which it is made does have traits in common with Piedmont’s Nebbiolo: tannin, high acidity and a prodigious capacity for ageing. Yet Taurasi hasn’t always enjoyed the same prestige as the reds of the Langhe. The reasons lie in part in the remoteness of the Irpinian hills where it is made and in part to inconsistent winemaking in the past. If Taurasi has now started to Caggiano, Vigna gain the respect it Macchia dei Gotti, deserves, it is down Taurasi, to a new generation Campania 2013 95 of quality producers. £28.75-£31.50 One that has Enotria&Coe, Exel, GP achieved iconic Brands, Great Western status is Antonio Show-stopping Caggiano, a freshness on the modernist in the best nose; mirabelle, sense. He was one of kirsch, bitter herbs, the first to plant at a hint of jasmine. high density and to Vigorous palate, bottle a singleyoung and grippy vineyard selection. tannins, finely He was also the first honed balance and to employ barriques a finish of liquorice to tame the and black tea. aggressive tannins Drink 2018-2030 of Aglianico – and Alc 14% vitally to have mastered their use.

Castell’in Villa

Photograph: Antonio Capone/4Corners Images

Chianti Classico Princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa reigns over 52ha of vineyard at Castelnuovo Berardenga in the south of the Chianti Classico hills. Her approach to wine production is simple and direct. She has always insisted that her intent is to make the wines that she likes best, independent of the stylistic fads that influence commercial demand. Following this principle for more than 30 years, she has established Castell’in Villa as an icon of classicism, a little detached perhaps (and little inclined to promotion), but with

impeccable quality and consistency that speak for themselves. She makes more powerful wines than her straight Chianti Classico – the Riserva Poggio delle Rose has the structure to age for decades – but it is this ‘basic’ cuvée that perhaps best represents the essence of Chianti Classico. Don’t assume that it is a simple wine. It ages longer in wood than any other non-riserva Chianti, but it still expresses the joyous fruit-driven drinkability and transparent terroir character of The Real Thing.

Castell’in Villa, Chianti Classico, Tuscany 2013 95 £22.34 Tannico Red berry fruit, pressed flowers and pomegranate aromas. A round and warm start on the palate, then a punchy progession and a long, layered, earthy finish, which offers the most classic sensations of violets and sour cherry. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14% ➢


I t a l y 2018 | 9


Marco De Bartoli

Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore Giulio Ferrari

Vecchio Samperi, Marsala If you google ‘Marsala’ you get more pages about cooking sauces than wine. Marsala the wine is making a limited comeback, but for decades it has been one of those neglected Italian specialities that are easier to find in reference books than on a wine merchant’s shelf. For this reason Marco De Bartoli’s Vecchio Samperi fits exactly into the category of little-known icon; for icon it is, but one you’ll not likely find at your high street retailer. Vecchio Samperi is a 20-year-old solera (perpetuo) preserved in oak and chestnut barrels to which 5% new wine is added every year. It is made entirely with Grillo, the traditional Marsala grape, and it is not fortified. In this respect it connects with the natural wines which the English navy fortified in the mid-19th century for long sea journeys and which eventually ended up in your chicken marsala.

Marco De Bartoli, Vecchio Samperi, Marsala, Sicily 95 £44.66-£46.75 AG Wines, Exel Beautifully fresh nose, discreet but precisely stated fig, toffee apple and marjoram. Searing acidity on a palate of incredible intensity; haunting flavours of toasted nuts, bracken and old leather, with a warm and reassuring finish. Unique. Drink 2018-2060 Alc 16.5%

10 | I t a l y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

Giulio Ferrari was a pioneering polyglot nurseryman from Trentino with two great passions in life: Chardonnay, which he was instrumental in introducing into Italy on a wide scale, and Champagne. Following his intuition that the slopes of the Adige valley offered the growing conditions for making great sparkling wines, he started experimenting with the Champagne method around the beginning of the last century and by 1906 was already picking up gold medals for the results. The wine which bears his name was first made by the current owners of the house, the Lunelli family, in 1972 and has been produced in the same style ever since. The Riserva del Fondatore is extra brut in style and comes from vineyards on the Pianizza estate located 500m-600m above sea level on the cool side of the river valley. It ages on its lees for 10 years and will happily keep and improve for another decade.

Ferrari, Riserva del Fondatore Giulio Ferrari, Trento, TrentinoAlto Adige 2006 98 £61.80-£65 Exel, Enotria&Coe, Great Western, Just in Cases

Tiny bubbles. Pristine clarity on the nose of toasted hazelnuts, apricot and baked apple with a nuance of bread crust and vanilla. Sumptuous creamy texture, vibrantly fresh and long. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 12.5% ➢


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Gini, Contrada Salvarenza Vecchie Vigne, Soave Classico, Veneto 2014 97 £16.67 Justerini & Brooks

Starts subdued but opens with amazing assurance to a fantail of aromas from lime and lemon to dandelion, hawthorn and beeswax and a fascinating note of smoky tea leaf. Irresistibly drinkable but with an amazing depth of flavours and long, flinty finish. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13%

Gini Contrada Salvarenza Vecchie Vigne, Soave Classico If Sandro Gini’s exquisite wines are not better known, it might have something to do with his self-effacing modesty, or perhaps with the generally low expectations that the outside world holds of Soave. The Contrada Salvarenza Vecchie Vigne is anything but the stereotypical simple, light, dry summer wine. Gini’s family has owned the Salvarenza vineyard since 1852. The average age of the vines, around a third of which pre-date phylloxera, is around 100 years, give or take a decade. Gini attended oenological school but says that when he started making wine he had to unlearn much of what he had been taught. For example, he has completely eliminated the use of sulphites during vinification. The grapes for the Salvarenza, 100% Garganega, are picked at full ripeness and fermented in barrels of varying capacities, where the wine remains for 12 months. It is cellared for another year before release and will continue to develop for at least another decade.

Occhipinti Grotte Alte, Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico Arianna Occhipinti comes from a winemaking family (her uncle Giusto Occhipinti is one of the partners in the historic COS winery at Vittoria). With degrees in viticulture and oenology behind her, she started out with just 1ha of vineyard, a surface area which has now grown to 25ha. Occhipinti is a high-profile champion of natural winemaking who has succeeded in taking much ambiguity out of the term ‘natural’ by simply making great wines that taste of their place of origin. She grows alberello-pruned native varieties on the sandy-calcareous soils of Vittoria in southeastern Sicily. Grotte Alte is an old-vine, 50:50 blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola, which marries the fragrance of the first with the body and brooding, bitter dark chocolate of the second. Aged for three to four years in 25hl Slavonian oak barrels, it is only produced in the best vintages.

Occhipinti, Grotte Alte, Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, Sicily 2012 96 N/A UK www.

Amazing aromatic richness recalls wild berries, Mediterranean herbs, dark chocolate and lilac blossom. Big juicy mouthful with powdery tannins and intriguing sweet fruit and savoury herbs in the finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13% ➢


I t a l y 2018 | 13


Tieffenbrunner, Feldmarschall von Fenner MüllerThurgau, Trentino-Alto Adige 2015 96 £28.25 Hedonism Baked apricot and sweet floral nose, with a distinct minerality. Deep ripe fruit on the palate supported by firm acidity, citrus and a hint of bitter herbs on the finish. Still young with lots of aroma to develop. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%

Tiefenbrunner Feldmarschall von Fenner Müller-Thurgau The 19th-century portrait of Feldmarschall Franz Phillipp von Fenner von Fennberg, with his jauntily worn military cap, is the centrepiece of the Alto Adige’s most iconic wine label, reminding us of the central European culture of the border region and the origin of many of its grape varieties. The Müller-Thurgau grape is not held in particularly high esteem in Trentino-Alto Adige, where it usually makes light and slightly ephemeral, citrussy wines. Tiefenbrunner’s Feldmarschall however is something else altogether. Grown at 1,000m on one of the highest sites in the region, it has a depth, complexity and potential for ageing which give plausibility to one scientific theory that the variety is not after all a crossing of Silvaner and Riesling, but does have a strong genetic connection with the noble Riesling. Vinified with long lees ageing but without oak, it is released two years after the vintage and tends to peak after another two or three.


Photograph: Peter Viehweider

Trebbiano Valentini eschews conventional labels. Perhaps the only description to use for this unique producer is the term ‘artisan’ which Francesco Paolo Valentini applies to himself. Many of the technical details of his winemaking are obscure, since neither he nor his father Edoardo before him have ever spoken willingly about them, and the cellars are never shown to visitors. What we do know is that their Trebbiano ferments with indigenous yeasts at natural temperatures, ages in large barrels, is not filtered or clarified, and that selection is very rigorous. All this contributes to a prodigious capacity for ageing in the bottle, which almost knows no limits. Another major factor is the variety itself. Trebbiano is usually a workhorse grape, but in Abruzzo the local biotype known as Svagarina makes wines with structure and aroma which set them apart from any other Trebbiano in Italy.

14 | I t a l y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

Valentini Trebbiano, Abruzzo 2013 98 £91.85-£118 Exel, Fine & Rare, Les Caves de Pyrene, The Good Wine Shop, Vini Italiani

Extraordinary complexity, the freshness of the fruit intertwined with herbs and freshly mown hay, and an underlying flintiness. Intense palate, but suavely irresistible. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 12.5% D

The cru-isation of Barolo

Photograph: Massimo Ripani/4Corners Images

The trend towards ‘cru’ bottlings in Barolo is a thorny issue. Michaela Morris explores the background to the designation of areas (MGA) in 2010, and finds that while most producers favour cru wines, there are reservations IT’S EASY TO get lost in the hills of Barolo, especially when the fog rolls in. Spellbinding as it is disorienting, Barolo’s convoluted landscape is best demonstrated by dizzying hand gestures only Italians have perfected. This region, totalling about 2,000ha of vineyards, is a jumble of ever-changing slopes with diverse aspects, altitudes, gradients, microclimates and soil composition. A wine from one corner will express itself very differently from another, even though both are made from the same grape, Nebbiolo. Wine-growers in Barolo have long recognised the differences within their territory and which vineyards are superlative. Yet the tradition here was to make a wine that combined an estate’s various parcels, rather than keeping each separate. It has often been explained that a vineyard within the area of Serralunga would contribute powerful structure, while another in La Morra might lend softness and elegance. The historical Below: Luca Currado of the Vietti winery – his father identified different zones in Barolo

reasons for blending, however, were likely more practical. Among these was the difficulty of fully ripening Nebbiolo in all plots for much of the last century. Combining them allowed winemakers to achieve a balanced whole consistently every vintage.

The first crus

‘[Defining the MGA] has given value to our hills and elevated the territory of Barolo’ Marta Rinaldi

As such, ‘cru’ bottlings were rare in the past. Cantina Mascarello’s Canubbi [sic] of the 1950s and ’60s was in fact a mix of sites. Owner Giulio Mascarello simply labelled his wine with the name of his most prized holding. Among the first true cru wines were Prunotto’s Bussia and Vietti’s Rocche di Castiglione in 1961. ‘My father did this because he was in love with Burgundy, and believed that there were some zones in Barolo that were better than others,’ explains Luca Currado of Vietti. Influential journalist Luigi Veronelli encouraged others to vinify and bottle their parcels separately. By the 1980s, there was a proliferation of cru names appearing on Barolo labels. Yet until 2010, these sites were not legally delimited, exposing them to exploitation. In the 1990s, producers and authorities alike recognised the need for regulations. The consorzio worked together with the local municipalities to clearly define the boundaries of each, a process which took 20 years. The result is Barolo’s official Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (MGA). Wine writer and cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti’s comprehensive tome Barolo MGA: The Barolo Great Vineyards Encyclopedia details all 181 MGA. He describes the motivation for formalising the MGA as both a legal and cultural safeguard. ‘If these crus weren’t officially recognised in the production


Left: view of the vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba in the Cuneo district of Barolo disciplinare there was a concrete risk they would no longer be allowed on labels at all,’ says Masnaghetti.

Pros and cons The work to define Barolo’s MGA cannot be downplayed, and the rigour with which it was carried out is widely acknowledged. The region’s producers are largely in favour. ‘It has given value to our hills and elevated the territory of Barolo,’ asserts Marta Rinaldi of Giuseppe Rinaldi. Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti is justifiably gratified. His father, and namesake of the property, produced the first Barolo vineyard map in the 1970s, which provided the foundation for the MGA map. Yet it’s not without its shortcomings. Each of Barolo’s 11 municipalities was responsible for identifying its MGA. Some, specifically the townships of Monforte d’Alba and Barolo, registered every piece of land. Others, namely Serralunga d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto, registered only the best or historical sites. Castiglione Falletto’s 20 MGA are all less than 25ha in size. Monforte d’Alba, meanwhile, has 11 MGA almost all larger than this. Bussia alone covers almost 300ha and its area under vine is equal to all Castiglione Falletto’s MGA vineyards combined. The large MGA within Monforte d’Alba are essentially confederations of crus and rely on vigna (single-vineyard) bottlings to indicate more precise origins. The greatest sore spot is the EU regulation which permits only one MGA to be listed on a label – front or back. While the law is based on traceability and transparency issues, producers argue that it doesn’t value the tradition of the region. ‘It’s a paradox that after such important work on the MGA, the labelling regulations do not allow producers who blend crus to write on the labels the MGA that are present in the bottle,’ laments Rinaldi. ➢

‘Among the first true cru wines were Prunotto’s Bussia and Vietti’s Rocche di Castiglione in 1961’ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 17

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Photograph: Molchenphoto. Map: Maggie Nelson

Nevertheless, support for the MGA is fervent. Currently, more than 80% of the 181 MGA are used on labels. In 2011, 39% of the DOCG’s production was cru Barolo. By 2016, this had increased to 57%. ‘More than one in every two bottles of Barolo bears an MGA, and 90% of producers bottle an MGA,’ reports Andrea Ferrero, director of the Consorzio di Tutela Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Langhe and Dogliani. On average, estates produce two crus in

‘It’s a practice which belongs to Burgundy, but doesn’t belong to our history or past’ Maria Teresa Mascarello (above)


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Maria Teresa Mascarello echoes Rinaldi’s sentiments. She has carried on the philosophy of her father, Bartolo Mascarello, and the heritage of Barolo by making one wine from her four sites. She is most outspoken about the introduction of the MGA into the Barolo disciplinare. ‘I am not against the zonation, which has given order to the names of the vineyards,’ she states. ‘I am against the way they are used.’ She is referring to the increase in separate cru bottlings and describes it as imposing French customs on Italian territory. ‘It’s a practice which belongs to Burgundy, but doesn’t belong to our history or past.’ Of further contention is the loss of some original historic boundaries. Both Mascarello and Rinaldi point to Cannubi specifically, which has been enlarged to include the adjoining sub-zones of Cannubi Valletta, Cannubi San Lorenzo, Cannubi Muscatel and Cannubi Boschis, all of which can now simply claim the name Cannubi.






addition to a ‘classic’ Barolo crafted from a blend of MGA. In this case, the cru wines tend to be a winery’s more prestigious bottlings. The increased production of cru wines isn’t concerning to Masnaghetti. ‘It’s part of maturing’, he says. ‘We can’t expect a wine like Barolo would remain fossilised in the 1950s or 1960s.’ For him, quality is what counts and in Barolo it has never been higher. On the other hand, Luca Sandrone of Luciano Sandrone does acknowledge a possible detriment. ‘There is a risk that a classic Barolo becomes a basic Barolo,’ he says, ‘though it will never be the case with ours.’ The quality of an estate’s classic Barolo is dependent on how a winemaker approaches his or her blend. If all the best fruit is reserved for crus, then the classic Barolo may indeed be markedly inferior. However, many producers regard this as their calling card, crafting a wine they are proud to put their name on. Massolino, for example, has a prime vineyard in the Briccolina cru of Serralunga. ‘We decided to use these precious grapes to help elevate the quality of our classic Barolo, essentially sacrificing a MGA for this objective,’ emphasises Franco Massolino. Anyone who has the misconception that a Barolo made from a blend of crus must be sub-standard runs the risk of missing out on some of the region’s best value wines. And, in some cases, these are among Barolo’s greatest wines, sitting alongside the finest of crus. ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 19


Morris’ Barolo picks: crus and blends GB Burlotto, Monvigliero 2013 99 £150-£215 Asset, Brunswick Fine

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Tre Tine 2013 97 £240-£269 Asset, Chelsea Vinters, Crump

Wines & Spirits, Fine & Rare

In 2010, Giuseppe Rinaldi adjusted the blend of its two Barolos to conform with the MGA labeling regulations. The winery now makes a Brunate cru and this gorgeous Tre Tine. The backbone is 60% Ravera, with Le Coste and Cannubi San Lorenzo contributing 20% each. Fresh, pure and haunting, it effortlessly brings together earthy base notes with flavours of bright red cherry and lifted lilac and violet scents. The fine-boned structure is all about enduring grace. Drink 2022-2040 Alc 14%

Monvigliero has only recently been hailed as one of Barolo’s finest crus, offering elegance over brawn. In this bottling, stems are included and the cap is submerged for two months. Winemaker Fabio Alessandria calls it an infusion rather than an extraction. It is impossible not to be moved by this utterly lovely, fascinating wine, redolent of cherry, lavender blossom, orange peel and aromatic herbs. The extraordinary lightness of being is almost Pinot Noir-like. Drink 2022-2045 Alcohol 14% Brovia, Vigna Ca’ Mia, Brea 2013 97 £77.60 Asset, Cru World Wine Entirely owned by the Brovia family, the Brea cru is in Serralunga d’Alba. The oldest vines (more than 60 years old) are selected for Vigna Ca’ Mia, while the younger ones are blended in the excellent classic Barolo. Flavours of mint, star anise and wild forest strawberries surge from the glass in this powerful but beautifully textured, refined, mineral-driven and captivating wine. The vineyard was certified organic back in 2013. Drink 2021-2040 Alc 14.5%

Richmond Shaw, Cru World Wine, Fine & Rare

Luciano Sandrone, Aleste 2013 96 £230.59/magnum Asset,

Bartolo Mascarello 2012 95 £143.75-£189 Asset, Christopher Keiller, Handford

A truly traditional Barolo. Grapes from Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Ruè and Rocche dell’Annunziata are cofermented then aged in large Slavonian oak casks. In 2012, the Ruè vineyard was hit by hail, reducing production by 20%. Exquisite aromas of anise, precise strawberry, raspberry and rose reveal themselves one by one. Delicate flavours are framed by assertive tannin with an exotic mix of spice lingering on the finish. Drink 2018-2032 Alc 14%


As of 2013, Sandrone’s iconic Cannubi Boschis has been rebranded as Aleste, which fuses the names of Luciano’s grandchildren Alessia and Stefano. The grapes used still hail exclusively from the Cannubi Boschis cru. Aged for 24 months in French tonneaux, it is already open and appealing, featuring welldefined aromas of sweet spice, cedar, black raspberry and rose on the nose. The palate shows earthy restraint and

Grand cru? As for the crus, not all are equal; which leads one to ask whether a hierarchy should be established. While producers are divided on the merits of creating an official ranking, they agree that it would be a colossal and complex undertaking. ‘It would be logical, but it’s a utopia,’ says Alex Sánchez of Brovia. ‘There are too many people with vested interests.’ And what criteria should be considered? In terms of a scientific classification based on soil composition and elevation, for example, Masnaghetti comments: ‘Even though I’m an engineer, this scares me.’ Historical reputation is another option. Yet the great sites of yesterday might not be the best today, given the changes in climate. While a direct south exposition used to be considered optimal, studies by both Richard Ballantyne MW and 20 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

balance with a promising future. 2020-2037 Alc 14.5%

Ceretto, Bricco Rocche 2013 95 £150 Asset, Cru World Wine Barolo’s smallest MGA is owned solely by Ceretto, with Bricco Rocche being sandwiched between the prestigious Villero and Rocche di Castiglione crus. As perfumed and expressive as the nose is, with mint, pot pourri and dusty earth plus some darker meaty tones underneath, the palate is still wrapped up in a firm grip that will take time to unfurl. Classy yet commanding. Drink 2021-2033 Alc 14% ➢

‘There is a risk that a classic Barolo becomes a basic Barolo, though it will never be the case with ours’ Luca Sandrone (left) the University of Turin concluded that southwest is now most desirable. The other complicating factor is human impact. In the 1960s and 1970s everyone worked the land similarly, which means the best crus – namely Brunate, Cannubi and Cerequio – always excelled. As viticulture and vinification have improved, the quality differences between crus has diminished. ➢


Morris’ Barolo picks: crus and blends continued... E Pira & Figli, Chiara Boschis, Via Nuova 2013 95 £49.40-£65 Asset, Christopher Keiller, Crump Richmond Shaw, Exel, Fine & Rare, GP Brands, Handford , Lay & Wheeler

Previously a single cru, as of 2009 Via Nuova is a blend of vineyards. The wine spends two years in a mix of French oak botti and barriques (20% new). Mineral, rosemary, mint and smoky undertones, this is compact with authoritative yet sophisticated tannin. Subtleties will be revealed as it sheds some of its impressive youthful power. Drink 2021-2035 Alc 14%

Oddero, Vigna Rionda Riserva 2007 94 N/A UK Vignarionda MGA is a rounded hill with compact grey marl and layers of sandstone. It is truly among Barolo’s greatest crus. As it can be austere and unrelenting in its youth, Oddero ages theirs for 10 years before release. The sunny and hot 2007 vintage gives a fairly forward, fleshy version with savoury leather, tobacco, pressed flowers, lurking tar and masses of tannin. Drink 2019-2031 Alc 14.5% Fratelli Alessandria 2013 93 £27.50 Fine & Rare, Justerini & Brooks, Uncorked

Conterno, Fantino Sorì, Ginestra 2013 94 £57.30-£74.25 AG Wines, Christopher Keiller, Exel, GP Brands, Great Western, Hic, Just in Cases, Q Wines

The Ginestra MGA is in Monforte d’Alba and Vigna Sorì is a south-facing single vineyard in the central part. 24 months in French oak barriques (50% new). Dark brooding personality, balsamic aromas, menthol and thyme with an enticing sappiness and tanginess of acidity marking the concentrated, structured palate. Drink 2022-2034 Alc 14.5%

This excellent-value, classic Barolo is largely composed of five crus in Verduno. It clearly demonstrates the intense floral, spice and finesse that characterises wines from this commune. Unbridled red rose, cardamom, violet and orange pekoe tea nuances are carried by succulent acidity and fine-grained tannins. Don’t brush off its overt prettiness and drinkability as superficial, there’s sneaky depth and complexity here. Drink 2018-2033 Alc 14%

Today less famous crus are giving great results. ‘Twenty years ago, crus like Le Coste, Monvigliero, Mosconi and Ravera weren’t even considered,’ says Currado. Now they are seen as gems. ‘The illusion of the consumer is that the “best” vineyard always makes the best wine,’ adds Mascarello. ‘It’s best to go very slowly’ advises Masnaghetti. First producers must get used to using MGAs and explaining what they are;

Vietti, Castiglione 2013 93 £30 (ib)-£52.10 Asset, BI, Christopher Keiller, Clos & Cru, Crump Richmond Shaw, Fine & Rare, Hedonism , Seckford

Vietti has produced a Castiglione bottling since 1971. Though the name suggests sole provenance, parcels in Monforte d’Alba, Barolo and Novello also contribute to this complex, masculine wine. Wild forest berries, iron and tar aromas. Though still tightly wound, the palate offers raspberry, currant, baking spice, appetising acidity and stony grip. An impressive stepping stone to Vietti’s fantastic crus. Drink 2019-2031 Alc 14% Massolino 2013 92 £45.99 Liberty, Lockett Bros, Prohibition Wines

Crafted from parcels in the Serralunga d’Alba crus of Briccolina, Le Turne, Broglio and Collaretto with a little bit of fruit from Parussi in Castiglione Falletto. An intriguing synthesis of the ethereal and the earthy. Fragrant peonies and raspberry meet red liquorice, iron and brick. On the palate, tangy pomegranate is framed by tacky tannins and juicy acidity. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 14%

while consumers need time to recognise them and understand what they mean. Cru Barolo is like a zoom lens providing an intimate close-up of the intricacies of the region’s terroir, while a classic Barolo is akin to an aerial shot which can offer a greater general understanding or completeness. The two different approaches present wine lovers with myriad wines to enjoy, while getting to know Barolo from every angle. D

Below: the Massolino family on its Serralunga d’Alba vineyard

Michaela Morris is a Canadian wine writer, educator and presenter who specialises in Italy


Fattoria della Aiola Elegance in Chianti Classico


typical Tuscan “strada bianca” dirt-road winds among the hills, vineyards and olive groves, leading to an impressive heavily walled building – Villa Aiola. This medieval stronghold converted into a Renaissance villa gave its name to the winery. In 1934 it became a property of Giovanni Malagodi – the man who put Fattoria della Aiola on the Italian wine map.

“The Senator”, as he was known, though not a Tuscan by origin, had a passion for wine and a profound understanding of the territory. All Fattoria della Aiola wines reflect this passion, tempered by meticulous attention to the unique characteristics of every single vineyard and vintage. It must have been one of the strongest attractions for the Russian investor who bought the company in 2012,

keeping in place the original Aiola team and preserving its unique style. The 36 ha of Aiola vineyards – mostly planted to Sangiovese - are split almost evenly between Castelnuovo Berardenga and Radda in Chianti. The vineyards enjoy a relatively high position - 250 to 450 m above the sea level. The vines grow on typical Chianti soils: alberese – compact clay and limestone that comes out on the surface with beautiful white masses of rocks, galestro (friable marl), sandstone and different schists. The best one-word definition for the Fattoria della Aiola Chianti Classico wines is “elegance”: tasting reveals delicate notes of cherry, plum and violet, a fresh, smooth and pleasantly tangy palate with a silky finish. Whether it is a Riserva with a more pronounced character or an Annata with a lighter body, Fattoria della Aiola wines are good examples of gastronomic versatility.

A food wine, for all palates – western and oriental, Italian and Chinese... Chianti Classico from Fattoria della Aiola is a perfect food wine. Its freshness, light tannins and rich bouquet render it good for pairing with an impressive variety of foods. You can start with traditional Tuscan appetizers, for example, crostini topped with chicken livers, and continue with different kinds of grilled meat, including the king of the Tuscan gastronomy – the Florentine T-bone steak, fantastically succulent and a perfect match for the Chianti Classico Riserva. A Chianti Classico 2014 goes very well with a meat sauce pasta or even pizza, why not? Italian food is no problem, but

Above: Florentine T-bone steak. Left: Braised Pig’s Knuckle

breaking stereotypes can also bring delicious results – Indian and especially Chinese traditional dishes “marry” harmoniously with Fattoria della Aiola wines. Try a traditional Crispy Chicken with Aiola Chianti Classico Riserva, the wine-food combination that took a Bronze at the Hong Kong IWSC. For a special occasion we suggest trusting the Hong Kong IWSC food and wine pairing judges and ordering a traditional Chinese New Year dish, Braised Pig’s Knuckle with dried Oysters and Sea Moss with a glass of Chianti Classico Riserva Cancello Rosso, a Gold Medal winner.



Red and white native varieties from the Monferrato region in Piedmont


arbera d’Asti DOCG is the leading red wine from 169 towns in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria in north-east Italy’s Piedmont region. The Barbera grape has thrived in these sub-Alpine conditions for centuries. The surrounding cities of Milan and Turin, and the important port of Genoa on the Mediterranean coast have made this Italy’s most prosperous area economically, and this prosperity in turn provided local winegrowers with a ready market, and encouraged them to invest in Barbera’s potential. Barbera became known locally as “the people’s wine”. Winemakers who make Barbera love it too, because it is easy to work with in both vineyard and winery. As a wine, Barbera’s key characteristics are soft, moreish fruit flavours such as raspberry, plum, and dark/black cherry, an invitingly deep colour, and a noticeably vibrant inner freshness. This makes it one of Italy’s most food-friendly grapes, especially since this freshness comes with an agreeably smooth texture. Mouth-puckering red Barbera is not. There are two broad styles of Barbera d’Asti. The first provides a satisfying and versatile red wine for everyday drinking, an unfinished bottle of which will open out gently over the next day or two as the soft red fruit notes mellow. The second is a deeper and more mouth-filling version which will have been aged in oak: anything

from small- to medium-sized oak barrels to much larger oak vats. Barbera is one of the few Italian red

“Barbera’s key characteristics are soft, moreish fruit flavours such as raspberry, plum, and dark/black cherry, an invitingly deep colour, and a noticeably vibrant inner freshness.”

wine grapes which takes happily to oak aging, the process bringing out its inherent juiciness. A clue is on the label: wines labelled Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG will have seen at least 6 months’ oak. Visiting the area is the best way to get to grips with the local terrain, and to taste the differences between Barbera grown on either of the Monferrato’s two main soil types. The first and predominant type is a finely textured and particularly bright type of compact white limestone which gives wines with rich, mouthwatering firmness and whose structured fruit flavours fall at the redder end of the dark fruit spectrum. The second soil type consists of much looser sandy soils. Unsuprisingly, these provide a more open-knit style of Barbera in terms of texture, and wines which are noticeably lighter in colour too compared to their limestone counterparts. The sandy-soiled Barbera’s secret weapon is their intense and often floral, violets and peony perfumes. Barbera has grown in the Monferrato region for more than 500 years, which demonstrates how much the region is its natural home. So much so that today there are more than 600 producers of Barbera d’Asti in the region. Local variations in climate and terrain – terroir in other words – have led to a “super region” for Barbera being established in vineyards surrounding Nizza Monferrato, where 18 villages provide the

wine for Barbera’s high-end Nizza DOCG. Superior quality comes from more restrictive regulations: Nizza wine must contain 100% Barbera grapes, compared to a minimum 90% for a Barbera d’Asti. Yield is restricted to 70 ql/ha and ageing in oak must be at least 6 months, or 12 months if labelled as ‘Riserva’. Such is the success of Nizza DOCG that it now accounts for one million bottles of sales.

Barbera’s friends: other wines from Monferrato Other highlights from the Monferrato hills include Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG, an unmistakable red from the Ruchè grape. It was resurrected as a dry rather than sweet wine style in the 1970s by Castagnole’s parish priest. The local chalky soils enhance Ruchè’s signature lavender and intense red berry aromas and uplifting mouthfeel. Freisa d’Asti DOC is another distinctive red made from the Freisa grape variety. It can be made as a still wine, but its signature style is a moreishly soft,

MONFERRATO reddish-coloured sparkler with light flavours of juicy strawberry, the fruit from which it takes its name (from the French fraise). This is one of the most aristocratic/ complex/serious fizzy pinks you’ll ever try–Freisa is a close relative of Nebbiolo, one of the world’s greatest red grapes. Grignolino d’Asti DOC is a lightlycoloured red from the Grignolino grape. The wine shows mouthwateringly refreshing sour cherry flavours, making Grignolino the wise choice if ever you get invited to one of those several hour-long Italian lunches based on fatty food. Dolcetto d’Asti DOC is an equally refreshing red, but with darker plum flavours and broader mouthfeel, but without becoming heavy. It likes getting a

bit of air too, meaning you can happily return to an unfinished bottle a day or two after you opened it. Cortese dell’Alto Monferrato DOC is a crisp dry white from the Cortese grape which is sometimes bottled off the yeast lees to lift the wine by giving it a prickle of light lemony fizz. Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco DOC is a red from dark-skinned Malvasia Lunga grape grown in the hills between Turin and Asti, named after its long bunches. The wines can be still or sparkling, dry or sweet and is typically rose-scented. Albugnano DOC is a rare Nebbiolo red and rosato from the village of that name and four others in the high hills north of Asti. Monferrato’s producers can also use two catch-all denominations for their wines. The Monferrato DOC covers wines from the provinces of Asti and Alessandria, and the all-encompassing Piemonte DOC for wines made from grapes authorised for the Piedmont region as a whole.

Italy’s top Pinot Noirs Although it’s not an Italian native, Pinot Noir thrives in certain cool-climate spots across the country. Walter Speller charts its progress and recommends some of the best examples ‘MY WISH HAS always been to make a La Tâche 1953: elegance combined with power, and varietally pure.’ I am with Franz Haas, veteran wine producer in alpine South Tyrol, who has just poured me a glass of Pònkler, his beautiful single-vineyard Pinot Noir planted at an incredible density of 10,000 vines per hectare at 750m, high up in the Alps. When I protest, saying it doesn’t make sense to pursue 26 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Above: harvesting Pinot Noir in the alpine South Tyrol vineyard owned by Franz Haas

this in a radically different terroir, he corrects me: ‘Of course my guiding light is Burgundy. I need that guiding light to find out what I can achieve in South Tyrol.’ But rather than Burgundy, cool climate seems to be the key principle that lies behind Pònkler. From his mother, Haas inherited a vineyard in Mazon – a southwest-facing plateau at 400m, which was historically famous in Italy for its fine Pinot Noirs. A passionate Burgundy lover, he had come to the conclusion as early as 1999 that, due to global warming, he had to go higher and higher. Planting vines as high as 1,000m, he initially faced resistance from the local authorities, who feared his preferred sites would be too cool to ripen grapes properly, but


Above: Franz Haas, who decided to plant his vines higher due to global warming

Haas went ahead anyway. His extraordinary Pònkler more than proves him right.

In the beginning Pinot Noir is so strongly associated with Burgundy that it may come as a surprise that the fickle grape variety has been cultivated in Italy for more than 150 years. Pinot Noir first arrived in the late 1830s, in South Tyrol, under the auspice of Archduke John of Austria, who had taken a keen interest in the region’s viticultural development. During the same period the grape also entered Sicily, on Etna’s southwest flank, where Barone Felice Spitaleri planted it at up to 1,000m after trialling different altitudes for many years at his

‘What Italy’s best Pinot Noirs almost all have in common is a cool-climate and highaltitude site’

Castello Sollicchiata estate, having built 100km of stone terraces to cultivate French varieties, including Pinot Noir. Its third point of entry in Italy, in the 1860s, was Tuscany, on Marchese Vittorio degli Albizzi’s Pomino estate at an altitude of 700m (now in the possession of Frescobaldi through marriage). Like Archduke John of Austria and Barone Felice Spitaleri, Albizzi was a strong proponent of the modernisation of Italy’s viticulture after it had been devastated by powdery mildew. He believed that the French varieties would boost the country’s battered wine business. As if to prove Albizzi right, to this day Frescobaldi produces Pinot Noir on its Pomino estate. Albizzi’s idea that French, rather than local, varieties would lead to economic success took hold in Italy, especially from the 1970s onwards. Although Pinot Noir is far less accommodating than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the vineyard, it received the same treatment, pushed relentlessly to ripeness in the vineyard and given international polish in barriques in the cellar. In general, and unsurprisingly, it failed to enthral Burgundy lovers, but in a country such as Italy, which is extraordinarily blessed with myriad terroirs and macroclimates, winemakers were determined to master the world’s most prestigious red grape variety. ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 27


With an admiration for Burgundy regularly the leitmotif for persevering with this difficult variety, nowadays Italy’s best Pinot Noirs are original expressions of the place they are grown without any need to copy Burgundy – and at affordable prices. What Italy’s best Pinot Noirs almost all have in common is a cool-climate and high-altitude site, something already acknowledged 150 years ago by the three noblemen who all planted Pinot Noir in cool or mountainous sites in the hope of emulating Burgundy’s fresh climate.

Photographs: Arik Oberrauch; Giorgio Sandrone

Pinot expression Not far from Haas, on the other side of the Adige river in Eppan, Marlies and Martin Abraham run a small estate called Weingut Abraham. Their 2ha of east-facing Pinot Noir vines lie at an altitude of 500m. Half is planted on volcanic porphyry, the other half on deep, chalky soils. ‘My father and I planted Pinot Noir because we are fascinated by it – there is no rational explanation,’ Martin says. Although Eppan is much cooler than Mazon, the Pinot Noir clones they planted caused problems. ‘It’s warmer here than in Burgundy, resulting in more compact bunches,’ Abraham explained. Their compactness can cause the berries to be squeezed, causing rot inside the bunches. The remedy was to painstakingly cut out single berries immediately after fruit set to loosen up the bunches, but with progressive vine age this is less necessary. Abraham ferments his grapes in tronconic oak casks and during fermentation once a day

Above: Martin and Marlies Abraham’s grapes come from two different types of soil

‘Pinot Noir has been cultivated in Italy for over 150 years’

he gently pushes the cap into the juice. The total time the wine remains on the skins is an extraordinary 35 days. Since 2016 he trialled whole-bunch fermentation too, which he finds results in increased freshness. The wines age for at least 18 months in cask. The result is a highly original expression of Pinot Noir; savoury rather than fruity, and bursting with minerals. Abraham, who makes equally fine Pinot Bianco and succulent, ageworthy Schiava grown on old pergolas, is one to watch. In the hallowed grounds of Barolo, in the Ravera cru, young Gian Luca Colombo manages a tiny plot of less than one-third of a hectare of Pinot Noir vines at 350m. What the vineyard lacks in altitude it makes up for with its perfect north exposition, which is too cold for Nebbiolo. Colombo, who consults for newcomer Réva in Monforte d’Alba, used to ➢

Speller’s picks: 10 great Italian Pinot Noirs to try Franz Haas, Pònkler Pinot Noir, Alto Adige 2012 94 £124.99 Liberty Just mid-ruby with orange tinges. Complex red fruit with a hint of beetroot and white pepper. Compact, youthful and with gorgeous, long tannins and just a shimmer of oak. Needs much more time. Drink 2019-2026 Alcohol 14% Podere della Civettaja, Pinot Nero, Tuscany 2014 94 N/A UK +39 339 709 8418 Gorgeous, fragrant, sweet raspberry with a cool, iron edge and hints of garden herbs. Fresh, ripe and well defined

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raspberry fruit palate with masterfully handled tannins. Finely balanced. Already irresistible, but will age. Drink 2019-2026 Alc 13% Santa Felicità, Cuna, Tuscany 2011 94 £25 Carlo Lotti Just mid-ruby in colour, with a distinct and beautiful nose of ripe and almost exotic raspberry fruit and a hint of oak. Keeps changing all the time in the glass, its grippy tannins supporting the fine, ripe fruit, then a long finish with amazing focus. Masterfully done. Drink 2019-2026 Alc 14%

Le Due Terre, Pinot Nero, Friuli Colli Orientali 2014 93 £36-£36.50 Stannary St Wine Co, Tannico Savoury and mineral nose with hints of cinnamon bark and subdued red fruit. Fantastic, polished but firm tannins. This is just beginning to open up, showing succulence and grip, with a long raspberry fruit finish. Classy stuff. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13% Weingut Abraham, Blauburgunder, Alto Adige 2014 93 N/A UK Pale ruby. A nose bursting with minerals and almost an iodine note. The palate is a cool as a mountain breeze with fine, coating tannins. Completely dry and

Above: Gian Luca Colombo inspects his tiny plot of Pinot Noir

elegantly perfumed, with a gorgeous tannic impact pushing the finish. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5% Segni di Langa, Pinot Nero, Langhe 2016 92 £23.95 Mille Gusti A pale crimson shade. A little closed on the nose with fragrances of raspberry, iron and plenty of minerals. True Pinot character yet embryonic. Fresh, elegant and lively with serious but harmonious tannins. Super-elegant and taut. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5% Ottin, Pinot Noir, Valle d’Aosta 2015 92 £25 Stannary St Wine Co, Vin Cognito Truly perfumed, elegant, cool raspberry

fruit. Succulent, long and refreshing. Beautifully polished tannins and an aromatic, lingering finish. Gorgeous wine. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5% Girlan, Trattmann Mazon, Pinot Noir Riserva, Alto Adige 2014 90 £25 Bat & Bottle, Hedonism, Penistone Court, Petersham

Gulfi, Pinò, Sicily 2013 90 £60 Tannico Backward yet it has depth. With aeration, pure raspberry fruit and hints of tomato leaf emerge. Some new oak, supple and concentrated. A bit like a Nerello Mascalese with soft, bitter tannins. Looks easygoing but not showing its true self yet. Better to hang on to this for another year. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 14%

Cellar, Tannico, VinumTerra

A touch dusty from its oak ageing, but it also reveals raspberry and mineral aromas. Concentrated raspberry fruit balanced by firm but fine tannins. A litheness on the palate here betrays the vintage, yet this has a really long and persistent finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%

Alois Lageder, Krafuss, Alto Adige 2013 89 £31.65 GP Brands Pale ruby with orange tinges. Brooding raspberry nose with hint of stalks. Plenty of fruit that is well balanced and polished, with firm tannins. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5%

D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 29


work at the Terre del Barolo cooperative. It is here that, during the 2007 harvest, one of the co-op’s vine-growers delivered a batch of Pinot Noir grapes of such high quality he decided to rent the plot. I asked Colombo why he makes Pinot Noir in a region that is world-famous for Barolo. The succinct answer is that he couldn’t afford a Barolo vineyard, and as a consultant he didn’t want to become his clients’ competitor. But there is a deeper motive: like Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir is one of the world’s greatest grape varieties, and Colombo likes a challenge. Without trying to imitate Burgundy, he does take the grape’s fine aromas as a lead. ‘I want plenty on the nose,’ he says. ‘If the year allows, I want to make a wine that is aromatic and perfumed.’ To that aim he ferments Pinot Noir almost like a white wine at a temperature of 22˚C maximum. It stays on the skins for more than 30 days, while he submerges the cap, like Barolo, with wooden planks during the last 15 days. In the cellar he ages the wine in Austrian oak, but is also experimenting with terracotta pots. ‘I don’t want any additional flavour to creep in; I want to strip away as much as possible,’ he adds.

Above: the Gulfi estate, planted with a high density of bush vines

Cool contender The mystique of Pinot Noir has found its counterpart in Vicenzo Tommasi, in the Casentino Valley high up in the Tuscan Apennines. At his Podere della Civettaja, Tomassi – who in a former life was consultant oenologist at Frescobaldi’s Pomino and Nipozzano estates – has planted Pinot Noir in a windy spot at 500m, too cool for Sangiovese to ripen, and as in Burgundy, with 9,000 vines per hectare. His increasingly fine Pinot Noirs have achieved such fame that the region has been dubbed Gevrey Casentino. Tommasi believes that the Tuscan Apennine mountains have many ideal spots for cultivating Pinot Noir, but modest

Above: Vito Catania planted Burgundy clones in the highest part of his vineyards

Key facts: Italian Pinot Noir Total hectares planted 5,044ha in 2010 (3,314ha in 2000) Largest total surface 2,956ha in Lombardy’s Pavia for the production of base wine for the sparkling wine industry in Italy’s north; Franciacorta’s total is 387ha. South Tyrol and Trentino boast 553ha of Pinot Noir, and increasing

Aspect The key to success with Pinot Noir is high altitude, followed by north and west vineyard expositions Styles Savoury and mineral in alpine areas like South Tyrol and Valle d’Aosta; dense yet elegant and ageworthy in Tuscany’s Apennine Mountains

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renditions obscured that fact. ‘They were so expensive, and yet so average, that it wasn’t taken seriously. Tuscany was already worldfamous for full-bodied red wines, so why bother with a variety that didn’t seem suited to the terroir?’ Tommasi explains. Pinot Noir’s most southerly appearance is on Mount Etna. At 850m in the Contrada Montelaguardia, Vito Catania of the Gulfi estate decided to plant the highest part of his vineyard here with Burgundy clones. Although Nerello Mascalese is Etna’s main protagonist, due to its high altitude this part of the vineyard falls outside of the Etna DOC, whose upper limit is 700m. In the case of Gulfi, this disadvantage became a stroke of luck. Salvo Foti, Gulfi’s consultant oenologist and a true hardliner when it comes to protecting Etna’s ancient system of high-density bush vines, planted the vineyard with an astonishing 10,000 vines per hectare all tied to poles and so dense that only a mule can work the soils. Through and through a Nerello Mascalese advocate, he rolled his eyes when he showed me the beautiful spot, but Pinò, as the wine is called, is a seductive concoction of raspberries with a touch of oak. Approachable in its youth, this wine needs time to unfurl and show proper characteristics, as evidenced by the complex 2010 I tasted recently. Perhaps planting Pinot Noir was never a gamble, as Gulfi simply continues Etna’s Pinot tradition that begun 150 years ago with Barone Felice Spitaleri on Castello di Solicchiata. D Walter Speller is the Italian specialist at website


CANTINA TRAMIN Alto Adige, where Gewürztraminer speaks Italian

Cantina Tramin’s tasting room in the dramatic landscape of the Italian Alps


n nature, nothing is lost, nothing is created” was something said by chemist Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier. The same holds true for culture too, and that particular cultural product that goes under the name of wine. Over the years, Cantina Tramin has become synonymous with Gewürztraminer, an aromatic native variety whose origins are rooted in Alto Adige, an Alpine region of Northern Italy. Gewürztraminer has a very long history in this German-speaking area. The link with the village of Tramin seems obvious, because of its name, but there are in fact several competing ideas about the origin of this particular grape variety. Whatever the truth, Gewürztraminer is perfectly at home here, and it is a very natural habitat. Hot day-time temperatures with 300 sunny days per year, cool breezes blowing down from the mountains and sloping vineyards contribute to perfect ripening and optimum aromatic expression for the variety. Cantina Tramin, established back in 1898 in the village of Tramin, has been

“Gewürztraminer is perfectly at home here, and it is a very natural habitat” applying its expertise to Gewürztraminer for over a century now, conveying in the bottle more than just intense spicy aromas and an elegant palate. With Nussbaumer, Cantina Tramin has let Gewürztraminer sing. The latest development from the Cantina is a project to highlight the ageing potential of the variety: this is the year that Cantina Tramin has launched Epokale Gewürztraminer, in the 2009 vintage, no less.Grapes for this wine came from the two oldest vineyards and the wine remained on the lees for eight months before being bottled and transported to the silver mine at Monteneve, 2000 metres above sea level, where it was left to age for 7 long years at

constant conditions of 11°C and 90% humidity. Epokale is now ready to write a brand new page in the story of Gewürztraminer.



Profile of Piedmont’s premium white on the export market


ocated on the south-eastern edge of Piedmont, the Gavi wine-producing area lies close to the Ligurian Apennines bordering on the province of Genoa, a forty-minute drive from Genoa itself and one hour from Milan. In this so suitable corner for white wine production in an area famous for its reds (there are actually some interesting similarities between Barolo and Gavi: 11 municipalities, the same vein of soil - Serravalle marl - , single varietal - Cortese here, Nebbiolo there - and the same inclination for excellence), a rather peculiar encounter occurs. The wind, coming off the sea just thirty kilometres away, blows as far as the Apennine snows, caressing the villages, castles, hills, woods and vineyards, donating an impressive light to the air. Sea-snow-light, the characterising trio of these lands suspended in time, messengers of an ancient nobility. This is borderland, an authentic and valuable region where, in order to secure safe passage through the Apennine passes, free from the tyranny of feudal lords and bandits, the Genoese expanded to the “Oltregiogo” area, as it was then called. This fertile and productive area with its abundance of water and timber, followed the Salt Road, a trade route that went from the coast towards the Po valley and then either further into Europe or towards the Via Postumia Roman road to the Adriatic. The Ligurian aristocracy built their summer estates here which, with time, went on to become wine-producing companies in the style of Bordeaux châteaux (although its vineyards are not so extensive, the largest winery, boasts 65 hectares in one plot, but the others, apart from few exceptions, are small producers). It is a hilly land, still uncontaminated, and protected by the boldness of its nature. Visitors get lost in the beauty and taste wines along the Strada della Lomellina wine route. It’s a totally overwhelming experience. The Gavi area

Gavi DOCG in figures Four versions: 99% still, but also small amounts of sparkling, spumante and reserve. Surface area: about 1,500 hectares. Annual production: around 13 million bottles. Producers: about 440 companies between producers, wine-makers and bottlers. Turnover: around 55 million Euros. Export: 85% of total.

extends over eleven municipalities in the province of Alessandria, with the town of Gavi as the wine-producing and cultural pole dominated by its tenth century fortress. Gavi acts as the demarcation line between the white lands (to the south) and the red lands (to the north). The white lands with their calcareous-marlish-sandy nature originating from the sea, are the oldest and feature a thin covering of earth. On the other hand side, the red lands, where the ancient fluvial terraces provide deeper and more compact soil, are clayey. The wines from the white zone are gentler, more sophisticated, and have a lower alcohol content and a longer life. Those from the red lands have more body, structure and a little more alcohol. The other municipalities involved are: Bosio, Capriata d’Orba, Carrosio, Francavilla Bisio, Novi Ligure, Parodi Ligure, Pasturana, San Cristoforo, Serravalle Scrivia and Tassarolo. The Apennines and the sea have unquestionable influence on the local climate. Cold and snowy winters, abundant rain in the spring and autumn and a very sunny, windy and dry summer. The temperature differences between day and night are fundamental for the aromatic synthesis of the grapes. The vineyards are guyot-trained and grow at an altitude of between 180 and 350 metres.

History Wine producing in the Gavi area dates back to ancient times as the first document dated 3rd June 972, preserved in the State Archives in Genoa, testifies. The word “Cortese” is mentioned for the first time in a letter from the farmer at Montaldeo Castle to Marquis Doria in 1659. The first large plantations specialising in Cortese grapes began in 1856 on the La Centuriona and La Toledana di Gavi estates belonging to Marquis Cambiaso. In the 1800s, important wine-producing companies ➢

“A truly inviting drink… an ideal white for both afternoon conversation and for the table.”


Right: The Forte di Gavi stands sentinel over this frontier district between Piedmont and Liguria. Above right: Gavi vineyards in Parodi Ligure sprang up belonging to the Raggio, Serra, Sartorio and Spinola families which accompanied the rise of Cortese as a wine of international value. The man who made the name of Gavi was Vittorio Soldati. He enhanced the properties of Cortese produced in the area around Rovereto, a small village under Gavi administration, promoting it as a slender, delicate wine with little alcohol content that was altogether flavoursome and of good character, pleasant to drink and fond to remember. Gavi was therefore one of the most well-known and successful white wines in Italy in the 1970s and ‘80s and went on to become an absolute must on international tables. The wine was proclaimed DOCG in 1998 (DOC in 1974) and the Consortium was established in 1993. Captained by Maurizio Montobbio, directed by Francesco Bergaglio and assisted by a team of young experts (including the technical manager, Davide Ferrarese), this dynamic Consortium has been responsible for several innovative projects, which would need a whole article just to describe them. Just to name one: the Premio Gavi La Buona Italia award, a virtuous example of promoting Italian values that goes beyond local pride to englobe a national context.

The vines t is only here that Cortese manages to hold on to all its energy. Anywhere else and it becomes neutral,

“Time brings out salty hints of wet rocks and oysters, earth and spices, a splendid tasting tension…” flat and tired. In this area, however, it offers a peculiar personality, innate to this unique territory. Always used as a mono-varietal in Gavi DOCG, it is normally matured in steel (very rarely in wood). Gavi has always been faithful to itself and has never bowed to the easy ways of international varieties or using barriques, proving its constant pursuit of territorial identity. It is a vigorous vine that perfectly


Alessandra Piubello’s Top Wines

adapts to water stress and is not difficult to deal with. The grapes have a thick skin and unmistakable flavour and are also good to eat. After careful selection, the Consortium opted for nine specific clones suitable for enhancing the vine.

Characteristics Gavi has a tense, vertical, slender profile and a particular freshness reminiscent of juicy citrus fruits, Mediterranean herbs and even salt makes its occasional appearance. A truly inviting drink. To arrive at this, however, it must be Gavi at its best because this so very personal white wine, full of energy in its most intransigent and well-groomed form, runs the risk of falling into the most neutral banality in an instant, especially without the most painstaking care in the vineyard and winery. Its acidity is lively and peremptory: juicy, integral and tasty in the more inspired interpretations, seasoned with subtle, well-tuned spicing (more vegetable here, more herbal there), its energy is not density, its thickness is not strength. It is therefore an ideal white for both afternoon conversation and for the table. The best selections are so clear, fresh and incisive that they can go from the wine bar to the table with rare nonchalance. And there is no doubt about Gavi’s surprisingly long life. Time brings out salty hints of wet rocks and oysters, earth and spices, a splendid tasting tension, salty, iodized persistence, proving that this is a land of thoroughbred whites, something really special. The alcohol content, despite the recent rise in temperatures, is between 12° and 13° at the most. What makes Gavi even more attractive is its very affordable price range.

Bergaglio Nicola, Minaia, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont Italy 2016 91 £14 Enotria & Coe Fresh hints of citrus fruit, hawthorn followed by sea and cliff aromas. Pulpy and spirited to the palate, the length demonstrates incisiveness. Pronounced flavour and juicy drink. Drink 2017- 2023 Alcohol 12.5%

La Zerba Terrarossa, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2016 89 £15 Winetraders Agile, direct and subtle in the mouth with distinctive acidity traversed by an almost salty hint. Juicy and thirst quenching, it develops an incisive taste, tense as a bow. Highly drinkable finale. Drink 2017-2023 Alc 13.%

Broglia, La Meirana, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2016 88 £16 Berkmann Winecellar A classic interpreted with skill and measure, conceived to give soft and elegant pleasantness. Suitable for an international public, its finesse and caressing approach makes it good to enjoy. Drink 2017-2023 Alc 13.5%

Lombardo Giordano, Vigne di San Martino, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2016 89 £18 Winetraders Detail, intensity, definition. Peculiar style, structure brimming with rare finesse from its full and progressive development, able to nurture a persistence of surprising purity making the sip literally contagious. Drink 2017-2023 Alc 12.5%

La Ghibellina, Mainin, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2016 87 £18 Winery Classic Slow olfactory opening, outlining a subtle and delicate profile. The tasty contrast of the steadfast and full structure and the sharp mineral freshness of the vibrant finale is very distinct. Drink 2017-2023 Alc 12.5% La Mesma, Etichetta Nera, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2016 89 £20 Raeburn Fine Wines Transparent aromatic spectrum. Composure is the key to interpreting this wine. Calibre, measure, subtleness, rigour in the gustatory tension with a salty hint that expands well. Refreshing at the end. Drink 2017-2024 Alc 13% La Raia, Vigna della Madonnina, Gavi DOCG Riserva, Piedmont, Italy 2015 90 £23/£25 Passione Vino UK Complex and articulate olfactory range, a touch of acacia honey. The gustatory structure is soft with elegant finesse. Embracing, it flows with intense profoundness, closing with a persistent finale. Drink 2017- 2023 Alc 13%

Tenuta La Giustiniana, Montessora, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2016 89 £23.99 Liberty Wines Ltd Vertical tension in the aromas, reminiscent of Mediterranean herbs that return in an energetic and vibrant palate. The gustatory impulse is lively and continuous, urging further tasting. Drink 2017-2023 Alc 13% Valditerra Laura, Gavi, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2016 89 £14 N/A UK Integral olfactory profile with floral, citrus and mineral notes. Its expressive purity is striking throughout the gustatory timeframe: tasty energy, typical sharp freshness, balanced until its lengthy finale. Drink 2017-2023 Alc 13% Villa Sparina, Monterotondo, Gavi DOCG, Piedmont, Italy 2015 90 £43.28 FortyFive10 Dense, spicy aromas, a woody hint that frames the sip without blocking, enriching it with subtleties to savour. Creamy and soft, the closure is revived by a tempting almond trace. Drink 2017-2024 Alc 13.5%

The fashionable fizz Ziliani, Guido Berlucchi and Maurizio Zanella, set Franciacorta on its sparkling course in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lay of the land Despite its relatively short history in producing sparkling wine, the dramatic and beautiful scenery that shapes the Franciacorta denominazione owes its form to ancient glaciers advancing and retreating, carving the area’s landscape. ‘We are very young as a sparkling wine region – and have lots to learn to improve our product – but from a geological point of view we are very old,’ says Stefano Capelli, winemaker Ca’ del Bosco. Vines converge at the southern tip of Lake Iseo, a 25km-long lake enclosed by peaks that ascend dramatically within metres of the shoreline. This sub-Alpine plateau gives visitors a taste of what’s to come in the Alps proper, which come into view at the north end of the water. Not only did the glacial movements carve a lake that reaches depths of up to 250m, but it also left behind varied unfertile, stone-laced soils that provide the

1 Ca’ del Bosco winery 2 Contadi Castaldi cellars 3 Barone Pizzini winery

its sparkling course’ 36 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R
















Trento Lake Garda




5 nautical miles

Adriatic Sea



Lake Iseo


Zanella set Franciacorta on




including Franco Ziliani, Guido Berlucchi and Maurizio

Lake Iseo M

Other vineyards

‘Visionary individuals




MILAN IS THE heart of Italian fashion design, and long after the catwalks have closed for another season glamour continues to ooze out of its streets and beyond the city limits. Less than an hour’s drive away, visitors at the Festival d’Estate Franciacorta effortlessly pull off a fashion miracle: looking stylish while wearing a glass on a string around the neck. On an unusually hot June day, dance music that sounds like it could have come straight from an Ibiza chill-out album provides the soundtrack. There are hundreds drinking Franciacorta under an unrelenting sun, yet the gorgeous young crowd is impeccably behaved: it’s a tasting festival with taste. Those attending the Lombardy Franciacorta festival are young, classy and elegant – not unlike the region’s sparkling wines. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Franciacorta DOC in 1967, the result of a collaboration between 11 producers in the region. Back then the designation also included red and white still wines, with the sparkling wines getting a DOCG in 1995. Its makers are keenly aware that they don’t have a storied past, filled with tales of 17th-century monks tasting stars in their Champagne. But that’s not to say that wine production suddenly emerged from the deep blue waters of local Lake Iseo either. In 1570 a local doctor wrote a book which mentioned fizzy wines and, in a land registry of 1809, commercial vineyards covered nearly 1,000ha while another 6,000ha were devoted to growing fruit and grapes for personal consumption. Wine production has been here for centuries, but visionary individuals, including Franco


Photographs: Stefano Scatà/4Corners; Massimo Borchi/4Corners

Franciacorta may not be as talked-about as other sparkling wines, but Rebecca Gibb MW discovers it has real style and plenty of ambition


Above: the dramatic skyline of Lake Iseo, relatively undiscovered by tourists and visitors

Left: Maurizio Zanella of Ca’ del Bosco

Left: Franciacorta produces elegant and accomplished sparkling wines

setting for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc vines. This Italian lake, however, doesn’t share the fame of Garda, and it doesn’t have the celebrity residents of Como. Locals admit that many Italians struggle to point out where Franciacorta is located, beyond ‘the north of Italy’. Camilla Alberti, vice-president of Strada del Franciacorta, the area’s tourism association, explains: ‘The fact is that no one outside Italy knows where Franciacorta is.’ The most common explanation of its whereabouts is in relation to other cities: about 45 minutes’ drive from the shopping mecca of Milan or a similar distance to Verona; it’s also only 30 minutes from both Bergamo and Brescia. The region is associated with industry: steel, iron and brick works. The past and the present are embodied in the cellars of Contadi Castaldi. Built in 1880, the tunnels housing its slumbering wines and pupitres were the kilns for firing bricks ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 37


Seductive Satèn

Above: the late-ripening Erbamat grape has a thick skin but is susceptible to botrytis until 1965, largely abandoned until 1987 when the site became the present-day winery’s cellars. While the region might not have the vast network of underground cellars that Reims boasts, it’s unlikely that the winemakers of Franciacorta will ever need such storage capacity. The wine region is small and, explains Vittorio Moretti, president of the Consorzio Franciacorta wine association, production is finite: ‘We can never make more than 20 to 25 million bottles.’ Compare that to Champagne with sales of more than 300 million bottles, and Cava at 245 million bottles and you can see that it isn’t set to be a sparkling wine behemoth. What it does have is the ability to make fine wines based on Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc in a supporting role. Located some 900km to the south of Champagne, the climate is clearly warmer than in northern France, with sparkling wine harvests normally taking place in August – inconvenient for wine producers who have children to look after during Italy’s impossibly long school holidays. However with the introduction of a new (but old) indigenous variety in 2017, getting the kids back to the classroom before the harvest begins might be possible.

Return of the native The new grape in question is Erbamat. It ripens six to eight weeks later than Chardonnay, meaning the harvest will extend into the cooler temperatures of September – that’s of interest to growers with one eye on global warming as well as school terms. It is not in the grape variety bible Wine Grapes, nor does it feature in Ian D’Agata’s Native Wine Grapes of

Satèn, meaning ‘silk’ in Italian, is unique to the Franciacorta region, and its come-hither style gives it the opportunity to stand out in a crowded wine market. Always produced from Chardonnay, Satèn is unlike other sparkling wines made in Franciacorta – or Champagne for that matter – as it has less pressure in the bottle: five bars compared with six. In order to achieve this, producers add less sugar in the liqueur de tirage: 18-20grams/litre as opposed to 24g/l for fully sparkling wines. The lower level of sugar produces less alcohol and less carbon dioxide during the second fermentation, hence the lower level of pressure. The style is always brut (maximum of 15g/l). The resulting wine is gentle, creamy and – whether or not it is the power of suggestion – silky.

Above: Vittorio Moretti says Franciacorta will always be smaller-scale

Above: Silvano Brescianini, vice-president of the Consorzio Franciacorta

‘We are very young as a sparkling wine region, but from a geological point of view we are very old’ Stefano Capelli, Ca’ del Bosco

Italy – due to embryonic scientific data about the grape on deadline day, he laments – but watch out for Erbamat in a future edition. ‘Given climate change and the variety’s intrinsic high acidity, it’s bound to become more and more visible, if not downright popular,’ says D’Agata. ‘A number of Franciacorta producers have considerable faith in it, as it offers greater acidic backbone to their wines as well as providing a native, local alternative to another [non-indigenous] higher-acid variety. It’s a little like Oseleta in Veneto’s Valpolicella region, where it has gradually replaced the Cabernets and Merlots as a grape with which to add tannic spine to Valpolicella or Amarone.’ While Erbamat might be a new entrant to the grape Filofax, it has been in Franciacorta since the 15th century, according to historical documents, says Silvano Brescianini, vicepresident of the both the consorzio and Barone Pizzini, one of the founding members of the DOC in 1967. In 2017, the grape was handed a new lease of life: it is now a permitted variety in Franciacorta. There’s been a lot of work on the variety since the 1990s at the University of Milan, and it has been reintroduced to the vineyards of some of the leading producers at Lake Iseo. The variety has big bunches, thin skins and is susceptible to botrytis and oidium, according to Brescianini. However, it produces wines low in alcohol and has super-high acidity even at full ripeness, as well as delicate aromatics. All in all, that’s a perfect package for producing sparkling base wines in a changing environment. While there are fewer than 10ha currently planted, according to the consorzio, that’s set to grow: from the 2017 vintage on, the sparkling wines of Franciacorta may contain up to 10% Erbamat in a blend. The region makes no secret that it has export ambitions despite its bijou production. Since ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 39


becoming a DOCG in 1995, there’s a desire for the sparkling wines to gain international recognition. Moretti, of the Consorzio Franciacorta, explains: ‘The national market is very big and we came to exports very late – we never needed to export, but we want to spread the word.’ Currently exports account for just 10% of total sales, but Moretti says the region’s ambition is to reach between 30% and 40%.

Situated close to popular international cities, producers believe that foreign tourism will be at the heart of the region’s success. Luring international visitors away from Lakes Como and Garda to Iseo should be a nobrainer: you don’t have to be a millionaire film star to enjoy the high life in Iseo and, not unlike the wines of the region, it remains something of an undiscovered gem. D

Rebecca Gibb MW is an awarded wine writer who also publishes www.

Gibb’s selection: fashionable fizz to try Ferghettina, Riserva 33 Pas Dosé 2009 94 £37.50-£40 Toscanaccio, WoodWinters

The 33 in the name refers to this being a blend of three cuvées – Extra Brut, Milledi and Satèn – each making up a third of the final wine. Dry and savoury; richly aromatic and developed, giving complex almond and baked apple. Mouthfilling and vivacious. Drink 2018-2020 Alcohol 12%

Ferghettina, Extra Brut 2011 93 £28-£32 Ake & Humphris, Camber Wines, WoodWinters

Having spent nearly six years on lees, this 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Nero blend is mellow and suave, leaving you feeling relaxed. Full and round with great density, it offers up savoury, nutty and creamy flavours. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 12%

Ca' del Bosco, Annamaria Clementi 2007 92 £100 FortyFive10° Named after the founder's mother and sourced from the winery's oldest vines, with eight years on lees. Richly aromatic, toast and nuts, red apple and bacon. Mid-weight style, lots of density, long. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12%

Ferghettina, Milledi Brut 2013 92 £24.95-£30 Ake & Humphris, Amps, Field & Fawcett, Hoults, Noble Green, WoodWinters

Milledi means 1,000 days and is a nod to the time this Chardonnay-based sparkler spent on lees. Pure, precise with a lovely mineral/acid thread, white peach and apple. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 12%

4 0 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Lantieri, Arcadia 2012 91 £43.85 Mondial A rich and mouthfilling blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Nero with a high level of intensity. Having spent 42 months on the lees, it has developed a toasty richness and a mid-palate mellowness combined with great texture. On the finish, there's firm and bracing acidity, along with a gripping textural sensation. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12%

Mosnel, EBB Extra Brut 2012 91 £43.24 Alivini A firm (no malolactic fermentation here) and ambitious wine with lots of fruit concentration. Fermented in the barrel and shows toast aromas with lime and nuts. A good level of fruit intensity, offering depth and mineral grip. Firm, bracing grapefruit-like acidity and a nutty finish. If you like low dosage levels in your sparkling wines, you’ll enjoy this. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12%

Berlucchi, Guido 61 Nature Dosaggio Zero 2010 90 N/A UK 1961 was the first year a Franciacorta wine was ever produced, but the first vintage of this homage to that event was 2009. Fresh, pure, crisp and clean with crisp Granny Smith apple flavours, citrus and a taut finish due to 7.5g/l of total acidity. Vibrant and zesty, with red fruit and nuts on the long finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12%

Ca' del Bosco, Vintage Collection Satèn 2012 90 £65 FortyFive10° Richly aromatic with apple, vanilla and

pastry notes and a hint of oak-derived spice, showing its 48 months on the lees. Round and creamy texture, with fine bubbles. Fresh finish with long, apple-like length. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12%

Contadi Castaldi, Zero 2012 90 £26.95 Askew Wine, Eat 17, The Wine Tasting Shop, Truffles Delicatessen, Vinothentic

A round yet delicate wine that offers a judiciously made non-dosage style. This half-and-half blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes is rich on the nose with toast, apple and ripe fruit flavours acting as a counterpoint to the absence of dosage. Features a creamy, medium-long finish. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12%

Marchese Antinori, Donna Cora Satèn 2011 90 £33.50 A Tavola, Berkmann This is a wonderfully relaxing wine: round and rich on the mid-palate with lovely weight, built through the 40 months that it spent on the lees during maturation, and 10% barrel fermentation. You can expect to find notes of white flowers, hazelnuts and lanolin flavours with a lick of creaminess. It also boasts a silken texture on the palate, with a fine line of acidity to the finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12%

Ricci Curbastro, Gualberto Dosaggio Zero 2008 90 £42 Vini Italiani Mellow and slightly oxidative in style, offering bruised apple, nuts and dried fruit flavours. While light in body, it offers a richness of flavour, having spent eight years on the lees. An intriguing example of partially barrel fermented, mature Franciacorta. Drink 2018 Alc 12%

Drink responsibly


Giusti Wines

The rediscovery of a forgotten terroir


place in the company’s heart and a place in viticultural history: this is the area around the Benedictine abbey of Saint Eustace in Nervesa della Battaglia, in the Asolo-Montello appellation of Italy’s North-east, home to Giusti Wine’s top vineyard site, the origin for some of the most iconic wines of this estate, founded in 2004 by Italo-Canadian businessman Ermenegildo Giusti. In a radius of just a couple of hundred metres from the remains of the Abbey – a complex of great historical importance that was completely destroyed during the First World War and has been given a new lease of life by Giusti and his extensive rescue operation – a perfect network of vineyards signals the revival of a farming tradition which, as far back as the year 1000 AD, saw vines and olive trees on these hills and then, from the 17th century onwards, experimentation into best farming practices. Today, the steep slopes around the Abbey are home to the renowned Giusti Wine vineyards, where a fusion of international red varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir - comes with local

The Benedictine abbey of Saint Eustace red varieties, such as Giusti’s speciality, the recently rediscovered Recantina. Local and international white grape varieties also rub shoulders here, as the native Glera, Incrocio Manzoni and Perrera grapes are grown alongside the international Chardonnay. This fusion of origins should come as no surprise; it’s living proof of the profound changes in farming which the Montello district has witnessed since the Napoleonic invasion at the beginning of the 19th century when the original vines were torn out to make room for French varieties. This full-scale destruction signalled the beginning of a lengthy period when native

vines sank into oblivion before their rehabilitation in the mid-20th century. The vineyards around the Abbey therefore bear witness to a history spanning one thousand years, a history of toil, pain and liberation. Today, the grapes from this terroir are harvested and then immediately processed in the winery located in the Relais Abbazia. They give us “Umberto 1”, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot which is similar to a classic Bordeaux; “Antonio”, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Recantina, a modern take on a Bordeaux but with a strong local identity; and lastly, the third wine from this cru, the “Recantina Augusto” which, in keeping with the winemaking tradition of the area – and the rustic characteristics of the variety – is left to age for around fourteen months in large Slavonian barrels until it is perfectly balanced and smooth. “Just as the Abbey of Saint Eustace embodies the history of our community,” Ermenegildo Giusti points out, “these three wines, dedicated to the three members of my family who were most instrumental in forming my character, reflect our production philosophy. Our aim is to produce great wines that are faithful


“Recantina Augusto” DOC Montello Grapes: 100% Recantina Vinification: On-skin maceration in stainless steel for about 15 days. Ageing in Slavonian oak for 12-14 months after malolactic. Tasting notes: Intense, bright ruby red. Plums and blackcurrants on the nose with floral notes of violets and cyclamen. Soft and velvety on the palate. Pairings: Red meat and game, also good with duck, guinea-fowl and mediumaged cheeses.

ambassadors of our area, an area whose every aspect we want to enhance. The rediscovery and promotion of Recantina are a step in that direction: this variety, with its unique features, is only produced here and what better wine to take a new generation of consumers on a journey to discover the aromas and flavours of forgotten times.

“Antonio” IGT Rosso del Veneto Grapes: Selected Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Recantina. Vinification: Grapes picked and vinified separately when ripe and given on-skin maceration in stainless steel for about 15 days. Ageing in 3rd and 4th passage barriques for 12-14 months after malolactic. Tasting notes: Intense ruby red with slight violet hues. Intense bouquet of red fruit and blackcurrants followed by spicy vanilla and pepper. Elegant with smooth tannins on the plate. Good length. Pairings: Good with red meat, braised veal and lamb. Also good with mediumaged cheeses.

“Umberto I” IGT Rosso Veneto Grapes: Selected Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Vinification: Grapes picked and vinified separately when ripe and given on-skin maceration in stainless steel for about 15 days. Ageing in 225-litre French oak barriques for approximately 24-30 months before transferral to large barrels and final bottle ageing. Tasting notes: Intense ruby red with light garnet hues. Intense bouquet of red fruit, vanilla and pepper. Full bodied, smooth and long finishing with smooth tannins. Pairings: Good with grilled meats, game and mature cheese. Also good as an “after dinner” drink.

“These three wines, dedicated to the three members of my family who were most instrumental in forming my character, reflect our production philosophy.” Ermenegildo Giusti (left)

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

IT’S RATHER LIKE indulging a guilty pleasure: that velvety mouthfeel, the head-spinning alcohol, those beguiling sensations of sweetness. Few wines are quite so hedonistic, but that only partly explains a massive surge in popularity recently: Amarone has surprisingly broad appeal. Look below the surface and great examples show uncommon, indeed exquisite, balance and tone beyond the exhilarating aromas and flavours. ‘It’s far easier to make Amarone that’s all about exuberance and power than to aim for elegance and finesse,’ claims Paolo Castagnedi, winemaker at Tenuta Sant’Antonio. Keeping so many balls in the air without losing sight of two key elements – freshness and drinkability – is a remarkable juggling act. In fact, Amarone comes in a wide range of 4 4 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Above: drying out the grapes on racks at the Bertani estate

styles: to understand them better, various factors should be examined. Management of the appassimento process is crucial. The length of drying time is built into the production discipline (the grapes cannot be pressed before 1 December without dispensation from the growers’ consortium), but many producers prefer to wait longer – even well into the new year – when the must is richer in sugars and extract. Others set their sights on making less imposing wines by staying closer to regulation guidelines. Most Amarone makes use of so-called ‘assisted’ appassimento – often using communal facilities where giant fans and dehumidifiers maintain ideal conditions. Meanwhile the dedicated hillside fruttaio or ‘drying loft’, relies more on the simple

Photograph: Tom Hyland/Cephas


expedient of opening and closing large windows to manage air circulation. The cooler temperatures and greater ventilation higher up the slopes are natural advantages and the technical aids remain in the background as emergency back-up. In both cases, humidity is the arch enemy: the risk of infection by grey rot can put the entire crop at risk. However, a carefully restricted, and rigorously monitored, presence of the pathogen fungus can, a few winemakers argue, play a positive role; its nascent form as muffa nobile (noble rot) brings subtle nuances of aroma and flavour. ‘It’s there in the grapes and we don’t actively discourage it,’ maintains Tiziano Accordini, whose winery, Stefano Accordini, lies high on the western slopes of the Fumane

‘It’s far easier to make Amarone that’s all about exuberance and power than to aim for elegance and finesse’ Paolo Castagnedi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio Valley. ‘It gives particular shadings to our Amarone which we rather like.’ The familyrun Marion estate in Marcellise has a similar point of view, but the issue remains contentious and the vast majority of wineries (Allegrini, for example) take the less ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 45

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despite the low ratio of solid-to-liquid (skins and pips to must), which makes the variety a less suitable candidate for appassimento. Nonetheless a small proportion introduces deeper shadings and more tannins. Croatina and Teroldego, which are similarly rich in anthocyanins, are sometimes included in small proportions but the effects of all three in terms of smell and taste are minimal.

Site specifics

‘As a rule of thumb, the higher the vineyard, the leaner, more aromatic and structured the wine’ ambiguous stance of eliminating any sign of rot, opting for a deeper-coloured, fresher and more structured (less oxidative) style.

Grapes and vines The quality of the raw materials is paramount, and the choice of training system fundamental. Approximately 80% of vineyards in Valpolicella are planted to the traditional pergola system. This relatively low-density form of training is enjoying a revival in fortunes. Advocates single out two particular benefits. As climate change ushers in warmer and drier growing conditions, the overhanging leaf canopy helps to prevent the ripening fruit from scorching in the often fierce temperatures of recent midsummers. Secondly, the slower ripening process is better suited to conserving the higher acid levels a wine needs for medium-to long-term ageing. The Guyot camp, on the other hand, champions the higher sugar levels and increased concentration of the higherdensity planting method. Choice of variety is a simpler issue. The aromas and flavours of Amarone are determined invariably by Corvina – and to a lesser extent Corvinone. Elegance and perfume (especially a telltale note of freshly ground black pepper) are hallmarks of the former, while Corvinone has deeper colour, more tannins and tobacco-like aromas. Some growers talk up the current favourite Oseleta

Above: grapes are hand-picked at the Speri family’s vineyard, one of the region’s most reliable producers

Below: Allegrini’s Amarone is made in a fresh, structured style

Location of the vineyard is a defining element. Each of the three geographical zones has its own identity. In broad strokes: Amarone from Classico tends to be the most elegant and aromatic, versions from the Valpantena are generally lighter and fruitier, while the so-called ‘extended’ zone (beyond Classico and Valpantena, bordering on the Soave) tends to produce richer, more muscular wines with a higher alcohol level. The differences are mainly determined by both geography and topography. To the west, close to Lake Garda, temperatures are cooler but may rise by as much as 4°C towards the area’s eastern limits. The length and steepness of the valleys (which in turn affect microclimate) must also be taken into account as in the case of the long and narrow Valpantena Valley. However, the soil structure throughout the entire Valpolicella area is fairly homogenous and – occasional patches of volcanic terrain aside – based on a mixture of limestones from different periods of the geological timescale mixed with degraded sandstone and clay. Considerations of microclimate and altitude take on far greater significance as a result. The relevance of the increasingly cooler and fresher growing conditions at higher altitudes (between about 150m and 500m) cannot be overstated: as a rule of thumb, the higher the vineyard, the leaner, more aromatic and structured the wine. Below 150m the wines tend to be fleshier, softer and more approachable: while ultimately perhaps less rewarding, the best examples can be irresistibly opulent and luscious. My own view of the ‘style according to area’ debate also follows general guidelines including the influence of altitude, microclimate and topography; as ever, the exception proves the rule. For logistical reasons, Amarone is often blended from different vineyard locations as a ‘generic’ wine offering value for money (Masi’s Costasera and Tedeschi, for example); though most of today’s finest examples of Amarone reflect the continuing trend towards site-specific bottlings. ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 47


Regional style In Classico, the wines of Sant’Ambrogio (the western limits) are ripe and sweetly perfumed in the lower-lying vineyards close to the village (Nicolis, Masi’s Vaio Armaron); while in the higher reaches they tend to have more in common with the spicy, aromatic and leaner wines from the western side of the Fumane Valley, where the hillsides are often very steep (Accordini, Scriani, Tedeschi’s La Fabriseria). The gentler slopes of the eastern side of Fumane give balanced, approachable wines that age well (Cà dei Maghi, Speri). The Marano Valley wines provide some classic examples which show real finesse (Ca’ La Bionda, Novaia, Terre di Leone, Tommasi’s Ca’ Florian). To the east again, the Negrar Valley’s broad range of styles spans the intense and more structured wines from the upper reaches (Masi’s Mazzano, SalvaTerra, Viviani) to softer and fleshier ones further down (Bussola, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Mazzi). The final municipality borders on Classico’s other four. San Pietro in Cariano is at best the source of excellent, rich and powerful Amarone from lower-lying sites (Begali, Brigaldara, Monte Dall’Ora). Heading east, examples from Valpantena are less demanding and more immediately approachable (Bertani, Cantina Valpantena, La Collina dei Ciliegi, Tezza). Two valleys in particular in eastern Valpolicella show tremendous potential. Wines from Mezzane di Sotto (Corte Sant’Alda, Massimago, Roccolo Grassi, San Cassiano) and the Val d’Illasi (I Campi, Pieropan, Romano Dal Forno) can rival those from Classico and offer an intense, structured character which promises longevity. The area has a recent history of fine wine so other valleys such as Marcellise should not be underestimated.

Oak use The final piece in the jigsaw is of course what happens in the cellar. Fermentation policies are on the whole governed by the lower temperatures of the winter and spring months (which help to maintain Amarone’s impressively expansive spectrum of aromas and flavours), and two key factors help to define individual house styles. Amarone spends a minimum of two years in wood, though can remain there for up to nine or 10 in rare cases (Quintarelli, Zyme). Barrels vary from French and Slavonian oak through to chestnut, cherry and even acacia. Newer, smaller barrels, usually oak, are commonly used and have a distinct effect on both aroma and texture (mouthfeel) in particular, though there seems to be a return to the more subtle 4 8 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Above: Riccardo Tedeschi (left) with Napa Valley producer Emil Tedeschi

Above: Sandro Boscaini runs Masi, a standardbearer for Amarone wines internationally

and seasoned notes promoted by larger and older wood. ‘We favour a non-intrusive approach,’ insists Paolo Galli of Le Ragose. ‘Newer, smaller barrels add aroma and flavour; the traditonal botte is relatively neutral.’ Cherry and chestnut barrels are making a comeback but still play a minor role. Residual sugar is a much more contentious issue – the law allows a wincingly high maximum of 16g/l at 17.5% abv. While no doubt helping to make Amarone more popular recently, higher sugar levels have a negative effect when it comes to matching the wine with food. As a result, numerous wineries are looking to a drier style with less than 5-6g/l for more food-friendly wines. Current annual production figures of some 18m bottles probably require that Amarone finds a place at table: its historical and traditional role as a ‘meditation wine’ was more easily sustainable when production levels were far lower. Amarone has only commonly been labelled as such since World War II and has come of age over the last 50 years. During this time a hierarchy has emerged. In the UK, which buys around 10%, wineries such as Allegrini, Bertani, Masi, Quintarelli and Romano Dal Forno are standard-bearers. Speri and Tedeschi should be added to that list, but otherwise, my recommendations focus on names which have recently come to the fore. D Michael Garner is a DWWA Regional co-Chair for Italy and author of Amarone and the Fine Wines of Verona (£30, Infinite ideas) ➢


Pasqua’s prize-winning wines

Decanter is just one of the world’s wine titles to award important prizes to Pasqua wines in recent months


ecanter, Gambero Rosso, Robert Parker, IWC, DoctorWine, Bibenda and the Merano Wine Festival are some of the leading wine titles to have given high scores and prestigious awards to Pasqua wines in recent months. Amarone Famiglia Pasqua, in the 2013 vintage, has done particularly well: not only has it been given TRE BICCHIERI (Three Glasses) by Gambero Rosso it has also been given 91/100 points by Robert Parker, who described it as “very engaging, powerful, and deeply intense”. This is an internationally award-winning label both by the publications of reference as well as competitions: the 2006 reserve received 94/100 from Robert Parker and was judged the best Italian red wine and best

Amarone at the International Wine Challenge in London last year. Decanter’s contribution to the garland of awards garnered by Pasqua wines was to pick out the white wine PassioneSentimento, dedicated to the city of Verona, and the new rosé 11 Minutes, an exquisite blend, created from the noblest parts of carefully selected grapes. Decanter awarded 91/100 points to both. Another Amarone, Mai Dire Mai 2010, received excellent scores recently: DoctorWine awarded 93/100 points and the Merano Wine Festival gave it a Gold sticker, naming it an outstanding superior product. DoctorWine also awarded 91/100 points to Amarone Cecilia Beretta Terre di Cariano Riserva 2012.

Above: Pasqua CEO, Riccardo Pasqua This year too, the Italian wine journal, Bibenda, awarded its highest accolade of 5 bunches to two Famiglia Pasqua labels: Amarone Cecilia Beretta Terre di Cariano Riserva 2012 and Amarone Villa Borghetti 2014. Riccardo Pasqua – CEO of Pasqua Wines – declared his satisfaction with the results: “The dedication to the quality of our wines, which translates into extreme care throughout the entire production process, from the vineyard to the winery and the final packaging, has been recognized by the most authoritative observers in our industry,” he said, “in the United States and Europe. We are honoured. The awards and the excellent scores are an incentive to do even better. Excellence is built with the daily commitment of a team going in the same direction. I am proud of my under 40 years old team.”

Garner’s picks: best food-friendly Amarones to seek out Villa Spinosa, Guglielmi di Jago, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2007 95 N/A UK Classic, traditionally styled Amarone that reveals ethereal perfumes of dried fruits and developing tertiary notes, even a hint of incense. Fleshy and earthy on the palate, which has great freshness and a long, gentle finish defined by notes of woodsmoke and black pepper. This is a blend from two vineyards lying on either side of the Monte Masua ridge. Drink 2018-2030 Alcohol 16% Rubinelli Vajol, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2011 93 £44.99 Wimbledon Wine Cellars Sleek, stylish and balanced Amarone; scented with great freshness and

succulent fruit characters. From southfacing slopes surrounding the winery in San Pietro in Cariano and made in a drier, food-friendly style. A hugely promising small producer who began bottling in 2006. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 16% Monte dall’Ora, Stropa, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 92 £69.50-£83.99 Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene

Developed nose of cedar, quinine, black pepper and charred spice. Big, full and luscious palate with Christmas pudding-like flavours. Wonderfully taut acidity leaves the palate fresh and clean. Made from foot-trodden fruit at the Venturini’s winery at Castelrotto in San Pietro in Cariano. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 16%

Scriani, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2013 92 £23.27 (ib) James Nicholson Intense nose of ripe plum, aromatic herbs and tobacco. Fleshy and juicy but reined in by good structure. Beautifully clean and long. Tremendous potential. From vineyards up on the western slopes of the Fumane valley. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 16% Secondo Marco, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2011 92 £41.13 Tannico Round and ripe with seasoned oak notes; juicy and balanced, and brimming over with hedgerow fruits. Exceptionally clean and precise; notes of aniseed and tobacco to finish. Really stylish and with low residual sugar. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 16%

Quality wines from Valpolicella Tel. +39 0456839251


Viviani, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012 92 £21.67 (ib) Justerini & Brooks Closed as yet, with woody notes over intense, spice-toned fruit aromas. Plush and yet tight still, with understated structure. Tremendous freshness, balance and length with developing candied fruit aromas to finish. A classic example from the higher vineyards of Negrar. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 15.5% Ca’ La Bionda, Vigneti di Ravazzòl, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012 91 £46.55 The Drink Shop, Top Selection

Spicy, earthy nose with a hint of sweet liqourice. Figs and molasses, a perfumed finish of loganberries and black pepper. Excellent example of the balanced, ageworthy style of Marano. Drink 2022-2032 Alc 16%

Corte Sant’Alda, Valmezzane, Amarone della Valpolicella 2012 91 £41.50 Lay & Wheeler, Winetraders Spicy nose with dried fruit aromas. Lean but deeply flavoured palate with tobacco and black pepper, showing excellent freshness. This is a great food wine from a biodynamic winery in the Mezzane Valley. Drink 2022-2032 Alc 15.5% Speri, Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012 91 £44.73 Tannico, Vinexus A youthful nose of blackberry, damson and plum fruit, then a fleshy palate with lightly smoky and woody notes; leading to a long, clean, peppery finish. Offers great balance and ageing potential. Comes from vineyards situated on the more gentle eastern slopes of the Fumane Valley; Speri is one of the area’s most reliable producers of Amarone. Drink 2022-2030 Alc 15%

Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella 2013 91 £38.99 Bargain Booze, Eagle’s Wines, Hoults, Peake, St Swithins Wine Shop, Taste Fine Wines

Broad, aromatic and peppery. Intense and fragrant blue and black fruit characters, beautifully balanced with a positive, peppery finish. A fine example of the potential of Valpolicella’s eastern vineyards. Drink 2020-2027 Alc 16% Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Selezione Antonio Castagnedi, Amarone della Valpolicella 2012 90 £34.99 Carson & Carnevale Broad and ripe with notes of molasses, fig, tobacco and pepper. Ripe tannins and fresh acidity rounded out with clever use of oak and residual sugar. This is a splendid commercial example from a highly professional winery. Drink 2020-2025 Alc 15%

“One of the Most Exciting Wines of 2017” – Decanter, January 2018

SANTA SOFIA Via Ca’ Dedè, 61 | Pedemonte di Valpolicella | San Pietro in Cariano, Verona | ITALIA T. +39 045 7701074 | santasofiawines

Speri, Amarone della Valpolicella 2012

Below: the high-altitude vineyards of Cantina Terlan in Alto Adige

My dream dozen whites Want to try the best dry whites Italy has to offer? Tom Hyland picks his 12 all-time favourites, an eclectic bunch of wines that all offer abundant regional character, cellaring potential – and huge enjoyment

FOR DECADES, ITALY’S white wines offered little in terms of structure or complexity; their role was that of an aperitif or as a partner with lighter cuisine. Thankfully, over the past 15 to 20 years, dedicated vintners from Alto Adige to Campania and several regions in between have been crafting stellar whites that have broadened the focus of Italian viticulture. According to Roberto Giuliani, a leading Italian wine journalist, this shift started with a change of mindset by producers. ‘In recent years many white wines capable of ageing have been created – until recently, it was only red wines that enjoyed this quality. Now wine lovers are changing their perceptions and starting to buy not only approachable whites for early drinking, but also whites to cellar and drink with some age,’ he says. These personal favourites illustrate this upward trajectory in quality and complexity, spanning a range of varieties, regions and price points. 52 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Vigne Marina Coppi Fausto, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont First vintage 2007 Variety 100% Timorasso Average annual production 6,500 bottles ‘Why are you journalists so interested in a wine with such limited production?’ owner and winemaker Francesco Bellocchio asked during my recent visit to his property. Given the quality and unique nature of his Timorasso, he must have known the answer, as it is a white that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Named for Bellocchio’s grandfather Fausto Coppi, a champion cyclist from this area during the 1940s and ’50s, the wine combines high acidity and great richness on the palate with notable persistence and minerality;

it is highly reminiscent of a premier cru or grand cru Chablis. It also evolves beautifully over time; Bellocchio recommends cellaring this wine, and drinking it when it reaches eight to 10 years old. If only any of us could wait that long! Vigne Marina Coppi, Fausto, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont 2013 94 £29.35-£39.99 Exel, Liberty, The Wine Reserve

A dynamic version of the indigenous Timorasso variety. Pear, lemon oil and hibiscus aromas; powerful mid-palate, robust texture; lengthy finish with distinct minerality. Steel tank-fermented and -matured. Great potential. Drink 2018-2026 Alcohol 14%

‘Vigne Marina Coppi’s Fausto is highly reminiscent of a premier cru or grand cru Chablis’


Cantina Tramin

Cantina Terlan

Nussbaumer, Alto Adige

Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva, Alto Adige

First vintage 1990 Variety 100% Gewürztraminer Average annual production 65,000 bottles

Photographs: Mick Rock/Cephas; Mauritius Images GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

Is there another grape variety with as pretty an aromatic profile as Gewürztraminer? Offering perfumes of roses, with notes of lychee, grapefruit and even a hint of lanolin, a beautifully rendered Gewürz is like no other white wine. The grape’s name – literally ‘spicy one from Tramin’ – is apt, as the small town of Tramin is home to several excellent examples. Cantina Tramin, one of the region’s finest cooperatives, produces this special bottling, Nussbaumer, every year, and it stands out, not only for its varietal purity – which is unparalleled – but also for its complexity and persistence. Other local examples may be weightier or more floral, but the Nussbaumer is distinguished year after year by its overall harmony and finesse – as well as that characteristic sensation of spice on the finish. Cantina Tramin, Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer, Alto Adige 2015 93 £21.50-£25.99 Exel, Hallgarten Classic, stylish version of this famous Alto Adige variety from one of the region’s great cooperatives. It boasts lychee, yellow rose and mango perfumes, has substantial depth of fruit and abundant spice on the finish. It also ages surprisingly well. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15%

First vintage 1993 Variety 100% Pinot Bianco Average annual production 55,000 bottles While most examples of Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige are tasty, straightforward, steel-aged wines, the Vorberg Riserva takes things up a notch or two, as the cooperative sources high-elevation fruit (450m-950m) and matures the wine in large oak barrels. There is abundant spice, and – while the acidity is a touch lower than usual with this variety due to the later harvest – the richness on the palate and balance give it a multi-dimensional character not often found with Pinot Bianco. Best of all, this is an inspired partner for a wide variety of foods, from river fish to roast veal. Cantina Terlan, Vorberg Pinot Bianco Riserva, Alto Adige 2014 92 £28-£33 Widely available via UK agent Astrum Wine Cellars

Alto Adige’s everyday variety is given a serious treatment here; high-altitude vineyards; ageing in large barrels; beautiful texture and spice; expressive quince, saffron and white pepper; cellarworthy; great track record. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14%

Below: Cantina Tramin winery’s design reflects the colour of the vineyard

Above: Franz Pratzner dug up his orchard and replaced it with Riesling vines

Falkenstein Riesling, Val Venosta, Alto Adige First vintage 1995 Variety 100% Riesling Average annual production 40,000 bottles While Riesling is not the first white variety you associate with Italy, there are some notable versions produced in the north. Among the most distinctive is that of Falkenstein in Val Venosta, not far from the Swiss border. This is an area ideally suited to the variety, as owner and winemaker Franz Pratzner will tell you, given the steepness of the hills along with the clay, slate and sandy soils. He compares this spot to the Wachau in Austria. Pratzner, a former apple producer, transitioned to grape varieties about 30 years ago. He ferments his Riesling in large acacia casks, and then ages the wine on ➢

‘Sleek, subtle and understated, Falkenstein compares favourably to other great Rieslings around the world, yet it has its own unique charms’ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 53

its lees for 10 months in those same casks, lending a singular edge to the final wine. Sleek and understated, it compares favourably to other great Rieslings around the world, yet it has its own unique charms.

Below: Livio Felluga’s signature Terre Alte

Falkenstein, Riesling, Val Venosta, Alto Adige 2014 92 £25 Dolce Vita From far-northern Alto Adige, this is a Riesling of great harmony and suppleness, ideally ripe with intriguing aromas of apricot and bok choy. Slate soils assure a strong minerality on a very dry palate with sleek acidity. Subtle and smooth, it plays up to its food pairings. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13%

Livio Felluga Terre Alte, Rosazzo, Friuli

Photograph: Dario Fusaro/Cephas

First vintage 1981 Varieties 50% Friulano, 25% Pinot Bianco, 25% Sauvignon Blanc Average annual production 35,000 bottles Terre Alte is arguably Italy’s most famous white wine. While premium blends of three or more white varieties have become more common in Friuli, no other producer has been able to make such a dazzling example as this. Winemaker Andrea Felluga states that the aim was ‘to create a wine that could stand comparison with the great whites of the world; a wine that would be able to sustain a long ageing process, thus acquiring a complex bouquet of tertiary aromas.’ He explains that the dedicated Terre Alte vineyards in Rosazzo carry the experience of 60 vintages; his winemaking approach, in his words, ‘is limited to bringing out such potential, resulting in an elegant, complex wine, capable of long ageing.’ After tasting a few vintages of this wine, you can understand why Felluga poetically labels Terre Alte as ‘an emotion that flares intensely and grows stronger over the years’.

Livio Felluga, Terre Alte, Rosazzo, Friuli 2015 95 £46.40-£64.99 Exel, Hedonism, Liberty, Vinoteca, WoodWinters

Signature wine from a legendary Friulian producer. It’s a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon grapes, showing tremendous weight and persistence. Herbal notes of fennel and basil from the Sauvignon are inspired. Great ageing potential, a reference point for white blends. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%

‘Terre Alte is arguably Italy’s most famous white wine; it is also one of its most remarkable’ 5 4 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Pieropan Soave Classico, Veneto First vintage 1890s Varieties 85% Garganega, 15% Trebbiano di Soave Average annual production 330,000 bottles I was ready to select either of this legendary firm’s single-vineyard La Rocca or Calvarino offerings for the list, but I settled on its entry-level Soave Classico for several reasons. First, this is a wonderful version of Soave, produced from hillside vineyards of volcanic soils in the Classico area of this production zone; anyone looking for a typical expression of Soave should try this


‘Verdicchio offers great complexity and subtlety,

Andrea Felici

and ages as well as any Italian white wine’

Il Cantico della Figura, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva, Marche First vintage 2003 Variety 100% Verdicchio Average annual production 10,000 bottles

wine. Also, it’s fantastic value, comparing favourably with more expensive wines from neighbouring estates; it’s also as consistent a Soave Classico as there is. Leonildo Pieropan blends Trebbiano di Soave with Garganega, a long-time tradition of this area; this results in a wine of impressive complexity, much more so than the typical entry-level Soave. Always displaying good acidity and freshness, this drinks well for three to five years after the vintage. Pieropan, Soave Classico, Veneto 2016 90 £12.10-£17.50 Widely available via UK agent Liberty Wines

Simply a classic, and probably the best of its type. Mediumbodied with impressive depth of fruit; honeydew melon, lilac and spearmint aromas; the addition of Trebbiano di Soave lends notable complexity. Wonderful value. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%

Cantine Lunae Bosoni Etichetta Nera Vermentino, Colli di Luni, Liguria First vintage 1994 Variety 100% Vermentino Average annual production 55,000 bottles There’s a great sexiness to a well-made Vermentino, especially when it Below: Leonildo Pieropan with his two sons Dario and Andrea

Above: Paolo Bosoni inherited Cantine Lunae in 1966 and still supervises originates from hillside vineyards near the sea in Liguria. There’s a sleekness as it glides across your palate along with a generous embrace of acidity – a trademark of the variety – that is very alluring. Then there are those enticing perfumes of white flowers and tropical fruit that caress you from the start. Cantine Lunae Bosoni produces two Vermentinos, with this Etichetta Nera (black label) being more expressive than the Etichetta Grigia (grey label); the former is sourced from higher elevations with clay soils, as opposed to valley floor plantings with sandy soils. Cold maceration of the grapes for as long as 48 hours before pressing helps preserve the exotic aromas of the Etichetta Nera, while a few months on the lees adds complexity; it is unoaked too – all the better to capture the essence of the Vermentino variety, in all its Ligurian glamour. Cantine Lunae Bosoni, Etichetta Nera Vermentino, Colli di Luni, Liguria 2016 93 £20 Armit Sexy, sleek Vermentino; a selection of the best fruit from hillside vineyards in Liguria. Enticing grapefruit, orange blossom and yellow peach aromas. Great finesse and vibrant acidity; attractive upon release, even better two or three years later. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13%

While there are many candidates for Italy’s finest white variety, there is little argument that Verdicchio is the country’s most underappreciated. Planted in two main zones in Marche, Verdicchio offers great complexity and subtlety, and ages as well as any Italian white wine. This wine, from the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi denomination, is a thing of beauty. Sourced from a visually stunning, organically farmed vineyard with vines of 50 years and over, the grapes are fermented on their skins in cement tanks, then aged in cement before bottling. The result is a wine of great purity, harmony and finesse. In the space of only a decade, Leopardo Felici has delivered one of the great examples of Verdicchio, and one of the country’s most sublime wines. Andrea Felici, Il Cantico della Figura, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva, Marche 2013 94 £22.75 Lea & Sandeman From a relatively new estate, one of the area’s purest, most focused examples of Verdicchio. A single-vineyard offering with beautiful perfume of jasmine and lemongrass. Brilliant complexity, lovely finesse; a great example of the subtle complexities of this variety. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5% ➢

Above: Leopardo Felici pruning in his organically farmed Verdicchio vineyard D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 55

‘If I had to choose my favourite Italian white wine, year in and year out, it would be Pietracupa’s Greco di Tufo from Campania’

Photograph: Luigi Fedeli

Above: Emidio Pepe insists his grapes are crushed by foot

Emidio Pepe


Villa Matilde

Trebbiano, Abruzzo

Greco di Tufo, Campania

Falerno del Massico, Campania

First vintage 1964 Variety 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Average annual production 35,000 bottles

First vintage 1992 Variety 100% Greco Average annual production 20,000 bottles

First vintage 1975 Variety 100% Falanghina Average annual production 70,000 bottles

Sometimes, it’s best not to mess with tradition, and this wine is a hallmark example. Crushing of the Trebbiano grapes at this winery is done by foot, just as founder Emidio Pepe has always believed necessary. ‘Nonno [grandfather] thinks this allows a constant stimulation of the skins with the juice, which releases a lot of texture and flavour for the wine that otherwise we would have lost,’ says general manager Chiara De Iulis Pepe. This is distinctive; as it is not filtered, the wine has a cloudy appearance in the glass. Chiara also notes the ‘austerity and sharpness of a young Trebbiano’; clearly this is a wine that needs time to evolve. The acidity of the Trebbiano grape combined with the painstaking care of the Pepe family guarantee a white with great cellaring potential.

If I had to choose my favourite Italian white wine, year in and year out, it would be this. Proprietor and winemaker Sabino Loffredo is esteemed by every wine producer in Campania, both for his good-natured personality and his principled work in his tiny cellar. A first-rate Greco from Campania’s Irpinia province generally displays distinct minerality – the Pietracupa is textbook in that regard – but it is the impressive depth of fruit and persistence that sets this wine apart. Combine that with lively acidity, outstanding complexity and remarkable varietal purity – ageing only in steel tanks – and you have a superior white wine that drinks beautifully for more than a decade in the finest vintages.

Falanghina is planted in all five provinces of Campania, but few winemakers treat it as seriously as Salvatore Avallone at his Villa Matilde estate in Cellole, about 80km north of Naples. This is the Falerno del Massico denomination, the birthplace of Falanghina, as planted by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. It’s a perfect site for the variety, given the mixture of volcanic and tufo soils, along with breezes from the nearby Mediterranean that combine to produce a wine of great character. Five separate Falanghina clones are used (there are 40 in all on the property); steel-ageing emphasises the exotic fruit perfumes. Avallone crafts more intense versions of Falanghina, but none as delicious as this.

Emidio Pepe, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2013 93 £65 Dynamic Vines Sublime, very distinctive white, with ethereal texture, ripe tropical and citrus fruit and lively acidity. Needs time to round out and show its complexities; best after seven to 10 years’ cellaring. It has beautiful varietal purity, and a marvellous texture. Drink 2020-2030 Alc 12% 56 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Pietracupa, Greco di Tufo, Campania 2015 95 £21-£27.50 AG Wines, Astrum, Bottle Apostle, Field & Fawcett, Harvey Nichols, Whole Foods Market, Wine Utopia, WoodWinters

Textbook Greco: lemon zest, melon, white flower perfumes; outstanding complexity and persistence, and striking minerality. One of Italy’s finest white wines, every vintage; 2015 was a great year, capable of a decade of ageing. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 13.5%

Villa Matilde, Falerno del Massico, Campania 2016 92 £15.99 Eurowines From one of the birthplaces of Italian wine in northern Campania; this offers ripe tropical fruit aromas of banana, melon and pineapple on the nose. It has been aged in steel vats, and has vibrant acidity; it is straightforward, but with impressive complexity and texture. Overall, instantly appealing and delicious. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%


Planeta Cometa, Menfi, Sicily First vintage 2000 Variety 100% Fiano Average annual production 60,000 bottles Fiano is an ancient variety planted in several southern Italian regions – most notably Campania, where Fiano di Avellino is its most famous expression. Yet the finest example may just be the Cometa from Planeta in Sicily; it is certainly one of the most delicious. The wine is produced from vineyards in the far southwestern Menfi district; soils are a mixture of limestone and chalk, and rain is abundant, making this a choice area for white varieties. Initially the wine was given oak treatment, but after six vintages Alessio Planeta decided to ferment and mature the wine solely in steel tanks. This has led to a more focused wine, especially the aromas, which highlight dynamic floral notes. The texture is especially notable, as this is a palate-filling white.



Planeta, Cometa, Menfi, Sicily 2016 94 £20.10-£25 Exel, Enotria&Coe, Great Western Wine

Lush style of Fiano from southwest Sicily; no use of oak. White peach, honeysuckle and apricot aromas. Superb varietal character, superb persistence. Mouthfilling and forward yet never over the top, thanks to balancing acidity. Arguably the region’s finest white. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14% D

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 “Outstanding” – 96/100 points “…great value, offering multi-faceted complexity, tobacco leaf and rosewater notes on a long, refined palate.”

Above: Alessio Planeta has spurned his oak barrels in favour of steel tanks

Tom Hyland is a Chicagobased author and educator specialising in Italian wines

Bruno Besa, Decanter, November 2017

COL D’ORCIA Via Giuncheti, 53024 Montalcino, Siena, Italy Tel. +39 0577 80891


Cantine San Marzano Interpreters of the Puglian Renaissance


antine San Marzano epitomises a unique manner of interpreting wine in Puglia, which finds its roots in two main values: respect for tradition and modernity. Respect for a tradition that has age-old origins and still comes to life to this day in the eyes, hands and labour of our vine growers. Modernity for a notion of wine that focuses on the outside world and conviviality, that is always open to new languages and new worlds, and is characterised by a clear stylistic choice, made of clean and elegant tastes. Cantine San Marzano concentrates its efforts on the conservation and meticulous management of old bush vines and has become a synonym for Primitivo across the world and an expression of the synthesis between the potential of the many grapes that grow between our two seas – the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea – and the endless opportunities offered every day by their different cultures and markets. This is what Cantine San Marzano aims to be: a project of continuous research, looking into a future of cooperation, territory and beauty.

Above: A traditional trullo with Mauro di Maggio, Managing Director, and Francesco Cavallo, President


In the territory of Primitivo di Manduria Cantine San Marzano is based in the territory of Primitivo di Manduria DOP, where Primitivo and the other indigenous grape varieties find the best soil and climate conditions to best express the local scents, flavours and culture. The soil is dry, clay-rich and calcareous, with a fine texture, sitting on layers of tufa rock that lie very close to the surface - typical Mediterranean terroir, with its characteristic reddish hue

0 Monopoli


20 40 kilometres





Giola del Colle Alberobello Foggia



Other vineyards

Bari Naples


PUGLIA Brindisi Taranto



San Marzano di San Giuseppe Lecce

Nardo Máglie


from the iron in the soil. An extreme climate that makes life

difficult for the vines, but produces excellent grapes. Conditions include drought, frost, Sirocco winds, considerable temperature variations between day and night, and winds from the nearby coast.

Puglian values Cantine San Marzano has always played a central role in understanding and enhancing the value and profile of Primitivo di Manduria. Over the years, it has been able to produce world-class wines by combining respect for a thousand-year long tradition with a drive for continuous research.




Primitivo di Manduria DOP Riserva

Primitivo di Manduria DOP

Anniversario 62 celebrates Cantine San Marzano’s journey, which began in 1962. The product of a painstaking annual selection process in bush-vine vineyards, delivering grapes with the best possible polyphenolic composition. TASTING NOTES Intense ruby-red colour, wide and complex on the nose, fruity, with plum and cherry aromas, hints of tobacco, slightly spicy. A full-bodied and soft wine, rich in noble tannins, with notes of cocoa, coffee and vanilla on the finish.

Sessantanni (SixtyYears) is the brainchild of President Francesco Cavallo, who was determined to create a new wine that could express the authenticity of the Primitivo grape in a new and modern expression. Inspiration for this wine came with the purchase of a 40-hectare bush-vine vineyard with vines that were over sixty years old. TASTING NOTES Intense ruby red colour, wide and complex to the nose, fruity, with a prune and cherry jam aroma, with notes of tobacco, slightly spicy. A full-bodied wine, soft and rich in fine tannins, with notes of cocoa, coffee and vanilla in the end.

An extremely elegant and very long-lived wine, another step forward in the vinification of the Primitivo grape. FACT FILE 100% Primitivo from San Marzano (TA) and Sava (TA). Density per hectare: 5,000 bush vines per hectare. Vinification: The over-ripe grapes are hand picked. 80% are macerated on the lees for 18 days, 20% for 25 days. Fermentation with native yeasts at 24°C. Ageing: 18 months in high-quality French and American oak barriques.

An icon label and modern wine, now one of the most imitated of Puglian wines. FACT FILE 100% Primitivo from 40-hectare bush-vine vineyard, the “Valley dei Sessantanni” in San Marzano (TA). Density per hectare: 5,000 bush vines per hectare. Vinification: 80% are macerated on the lees for 18 days, 20% for 25 days. Fermentation with native yeasts at 24-26°C. Ageing: 12 months in high-quality French and American oak barriques.


EDDA (Lei)

Rosé di Primitivo Salento IGP

Bianco Salento IGP

Tramari is an elegant and delicate rosé, full of summer light and breezes. Made from early-ripening Primitivo grapes, harvested at the beginning of September. The vineyards are about 100 metres asl on fairly clayey and quite thin soils, with a good presence of rocks. TASTING NOTES A Primitivo rosé, light and elegant, wellbalanced on the palate. Pale pink colour, with an intense and persistent scent of the Mediterranean maquis and cherry and raspberry aromas.

A wine that fully embodies the soul of this land, Edda is a wine of mineral temperament, like the spirit of an elegant Salento woman. In a 6-hectare vineyard in Monteparano (TA), Chardonnay grapes, together with various indigenous varieties, find their ideal environment. TASTING NOTES Deep straw-yellow colour with soft golden reflections. Intense scents of flowers and peaches and a strong, persistent vanilla finish. Distinctive, fresh and mineral on the palate, ideal with fish, but also cheese.

A very modern wine, for contemporary living, where rosé wines are increasingly appreciated. Unusually for the Salento, made from Primitivo grapes. FACT FILE 100% Primitivo from San Marzano (TA). Density per hectare: 4,500 espalier-trained vines per hectare. Vinification: Partial drawing off of the must of Primitivo grapes after brief maceration, followed by off-skin fermentation. Ageing: In stainless steel tanks.

Edda is San Marzano’s female soul, an opulent white wine, which is also naturally elegant. FACT FILE Chardonnay with indigenous grape varieties (Passulara, Moscatello Selvatico, Fiano Minutolo) grown 100m above sea level in Monteparano (TA). Density per hectare: 4,500 Guyot-trained vines per hectare. Vinification: Destemming of the grapes and cryo-maceration for a few hours, followed by soft pressing of the must and cold settling for a natural decantation. Fermentation in French oak barriques. Ageing: On the lees in barriques for 4 months, with a weekly bâtonnage.

Treasure trove Best known for Lambrusco and Sangiovese, Emilia Romagna is home to a wealth of unique regional styles and native grapes. Stephen Brook lifts the lid to find out what’s on offer

Below: bringing in the grape harvest in the province of Piacenza

EMILIA ROMAGNA: TWO regions yoked together, both with distinctive histories and traditions – and not only in wine production. Emilia is best known for Lambrusco, Romagna for Sangiovese, and those two varieties and styles could hardly be further apart. However the same is true of other Italian regions: Sicily and Piedmont are hardly coherent, each giving room to countless grape varieties and different types of winemaking. But for Emilia Romagna it’s been a hard slog. Lambrusco has long had a poor image, although that has been changing – especially in Italy itself – over the past decade. Even so, it has been difficult to shift the perception of Lambrusco as a light, sugary, fizzy confection. Although Romagna is home to the more noble Sangiovese grape, that variety has other

habitats too, notably the more prestigious Tuscany. So while many delicious Sangiovese wines are emerging from Romagna, it is understandably hard for them not to be perceived as a distant and lesser cousin to the great growths of Chianti or Montalcino. And for these reasons, even though the wines are sensibly priced (or underpriced), it has been a struggle for them to make much headway on international markets. Very large producers and cooperatives have a firm grip on the most commercial end of the Lambrusco market, so it’s far from easy for quality-minded producers to make headway against them. Emilia Romagna has more to offer than its two principal varieties. There are white grape varieties such as Albana and Pignoletto and a good sprinkling of international varieties –


though there are few compelling reasons to buy a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon from Romagna. So it makes sense to focus initially on the region’s most important wines.

Photograph: Dino Fracchia/Alamy Stock Photo

Froth and fizz Authentic Lambrusco is not easy to understand. The wine style is unashamedly hedonistic, showing plenty of leg without ever coming across as vulgar. Moreover, there is no such thing as the Lambrusco grape. Instead it is a collection of biotypes, which don’t even look similar. Lambrusco di Sorbara is pale pink with good acidity, and a source of refreshing, piquant wines. Paltrinieri’s irresistible Sorbara Radice is a model of its kind. In contrast, Lambrusco Grasparossa is inky purple in colour, considerably more tannic but lower in acidity. Inevitably these two biotypes, not to mention the handful of others such as Salamino and Marani, give very different wines. Nor is there is a consistent style of production. Most Lambrusco since the 1960s has been made by blending three or more biotypes and by using the Charmat method, with a re-fermentation in pressurised tanks

‘Authentic Lambrusco is unashamedly hedonistic’

Above: the Pignoletto grape produces fresh and lively white wines

and a short ageing period. Tasting in Bologna in November 2017, I even found one or two Lambrusco wines already bottled and on the market two months after the harvest. The majority of Charmat-method wines are not intended for long ageing and tend to be consumed young for their effervescence, fruit and liveliness. One feature they do have in common is modest alcohol, generally 10%-11%. The local cuisine is rich in fatty foods, and Lambrusco provides an ideal foil. There is also a move towards metodo classico, or ‘Champagne method’, styles. These can be made from the typical Champagne varieties, or from Lambrusco, and have been championed by Christian Bellei of Cantina della Volta. Usually aged for three years before disgorgement, these can be distinguished wines, and they sell for much higher prices than conventional Lambrusco. A third style is also emerging, metodo ancestrale, although some producers, such as Paltrinieri, dislike the term, observing that it simply means re-fermenting the wine in bottle rather than tank. Advocates of ancestrale point out that this would have been a traditional style of Lambrusco, as practised by farmers ➢

for centuries. Indeed, there are differences in character from a Charmat wine. Ancestrale wines tend to be frizzante rather than spumante, and thus lighter on the bubbles. Moreover, they are rarely filtered, and often appear cloudy in the glass as the fine lees remain in suspension – from a marketing point of view this gives them added appeal to ‘natural wine’ aficionados. In terms of price, they tend to be situated midway between Charmat and metodo classico. They are also more fragile and, with few exceptions, should always be drunk young.

Sangiovese reds Over to the east, between Bologna and Rimini on the Adriatic coast, is the homeland of Sangiovese di Romagna. It has yet to make much of an impression outside the province, presumably because consumers and importers would rather opt for the familiarity of the Tuscan classics. Sangiovese di Romagna may rarely rise to the heights of a fine Brunello or great Chianti Classico Riserva, but it has other virtues: a range of styles from quaffable to complex, and sensible pricing. In 2011 various sub-zones were allowed to be mentioned on labels (wines

‘The local cuisine is rich in fatty foods, and Lambrusco provides an ideal foil on the dinner table’

Above: Cantina della Volta has been successfully championing metodo classico styles of Lambrusco from Bertinoro, Predappio and Modigliana are worth looking out for). Although these sub-zones are largely meaningless to outsiders, here, as in Tuscany, Sangiovese is responsive to soil types and other factors such as elevation. There are vineyards at 400m that give late-ripening grapes and firm structure; in contrast, sandy sites at 150m, closer to Rimini or Ravenna, can produce delicious, floral and accessible wines that may lack complexity, but have wonderful drinkability. In general, Sangiovese di Romagna is a touch softer and lower in tannin than most Tuscan versions of the variety, and some wines can be bland as a result of legally

Brook’s pick: Emilia Romagna’s versatile range of styles Cantina della Volta, DDR Lambrusco di Modena Spumante 2009 91 POA Bancroft A remarkable metodo classico Lambrusco, which is disgorged after spending 84 months on the lees. The nose is brisk, floral and stylish, with juicy raspberry fruit that’s mirrored on the palate. Bright and concentrated with a good weight of fruit. Long too, with a slightly bitter yet bracing dry finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alcohol 13% Paltrinieri, Leclisse, Lambrusco di Sorbara Frizzante 2016 90 £13.76 Tannico An exquisite Sorbara, this is light pink in colour and boasts a very fragrant nose of strawberry. On the palate it’s fresh but intense, jazzy and lifted, with finesse and persistence. A May afternoon in a bottle. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

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Venturini Baldini, Rubino del Cerro, Lambrusco Rosso Secco Spumante 2016 90 £21.97 Alliance, Mondial Cropping at just a third of the permitted yields is one secret of this estate’s success. This blend of three biotypes delivers a dense nose of cherry, violet and blackberry. Quite tannic and robust, ample body and texture. Good length. A Lambrusco for food such as meat-filled tortellini. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 12% Medici Ermete, Concerto, Lambrusco Reggiano Salamino Secco, Reggio Emilia 2016 88 £11.95 Albion Wine Shippers, Bat & Bottle, Butlers Wine Cellar, Corkage, Duncan Murray, Hedonism, Hennings, Old School Wines, Theatre of Wine, Valvona & Crolla, Vinarius, VinumTerra, Wined Up Here, WineTrust100

A famous Lambrusco from a lowcropped Salamino vineyard. The colour is very deep, the nose dense and damsony, while the palate is full-bodied and

assertive. But not excessively serious: this shows light tannins, moderate acidity and length. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5% Leone Conti, Progetto 1, Albana di Romagna Secco 2016 87 £22.80 (2015) Vini Italiani This has weight, as a good Albana should, although the nose is subdued, with mild apricot and almond aromas. It’s fullbodied, creamy and spicy, with a discreet hit of alcohol, plus modest acidity and length. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14.5% Ottaviani, Clemente Primo I, Bianco Rubicone 2016 87 £13.50 (2009) Colasanti A striking unoaked blend of organically farmed Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and the local Pagadebit. Ripe pear and apricot aromas explode from the glass, while the palate is fresh, brisk, firm and lively. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12.5%


sanctioned high yields. Many of the lighter styles see no wood-ageing, or just a short period in large old casks, and are none the worse for that. Superiore wines must be made from lower yields, and riservas require two years of ageing, so many of the latter spend a year or so in barriques. Sangiovese di Romagna may not have a reputation for longevity, but I have tasted riservas from Drei Donà from the late 1990s that have been splendid. Owner Enrico Drei Donà tells me: ‘I like to pour these wines just to show that it’s possible to make long-lived wines from our best terroirs.’ Pertinello also produces a structured and barrique-aged riserva called Il Sasso, of which the current vintage is 2010. Sangiovese producers did go through a phase when they were trying too hard. Italians speak of vino importante, a self-conferred accolade on a bottling that the winery thinks consumers should take very seriously. It usually involves exaggeratedly low yields, overripe fruit and lashings of new oak. But most have seen the error of their ways. Romagna is not Tuscany, and while it can certainly produce

Drei Donà, Pruno Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Riserva 2013 92 £18.86 (2012) Tannico There’s power on the nose, with its rich, oaky, black fruit aromas. An assertive style, lush and concentrated with bold but ripe tannins, plus remarkable tension and vigour. Spicy and long on the finish. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 13.5% Torre San Martino, Vigna 1922, Romagna Sangiovese Modigliana Riserva 2013 91 £27.99 Eurowines From old bush vines, a traditional style aged in large casks. Smoky, intense nose, with cherry notes; suave palate though concentrated, with ample grip and structure. Spicy and flamboyant, this has fine length. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5% Villa Papiano, Le Papesse di Papiano, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore 2016 91 N/A UK

‘At its best, Albana passito can be counted among Italy’s great sweet wines’ Below: Enrico Drei Donà of Drei Donà

powerful and characterful wines such as those from Drei Donà and Pertinello, you need both exceptional vineyards and careful winemaking to succeed.

Broad palette It came as a surprise to everyone (except perhaps Romagna politicians) when in 1987 the obscure Albana was chosen as Italy’s first white DOCG. It can produce good wines, but other Italian varieties can surpass it, at least in terms of consistency. About 850ha are planted, and it gives full-bodied and textured wines with stone-fruit flavours, and, with any luck, good acidity. But it can often seem bland. More interesting are the sweet passito wines from Albana grapes dried either on the vine or at the wineries. But there are too many styles: Zerbina’s has a Sauternes-like finesse and complexity; Villa Papiano’s vine-dried Tregenda is a lively confection of dried fruits, honey ➢

An unoaked style of great charm. There’s a fresh, minty, lively nose, bursting with red fruits, while the palate is svelte and concentrated. Yet it has grip and presence too – and surprising length. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5% Noelia Ricci, Godenza, Romagna Sangiovese Superiore 2013 90 N/A UK A brand first produced in 2013, sourced from Pandolfa estate’s best vineyards. Muted sour cherry aromas and a silky palate with fine acidity; finesse and persistence, with charm too, and integrated tannins. Lifted and long. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13% Poggio Pollino, Vigna di Cambro Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore 2012 90 £12.45 Penistone Court, Vinarius, VinumTerra Sangiovese with a smile on its face. The nose is aromatic, with cherry and raspberry tones, while the palate is

suave, concentrated and elegant, with fine tannins and a delicious, long finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13% Villa Venti, A Centesimino, Rosso Rubicone 2016 88 £29.90 Vini Italiani Despite being incarcerated in amphorae for six months, this remains bright on the raspberry-scented nose. It’s sleek and stylish, with moderate concentration and extraction, plus stylish marzipan and cherry flavours. Quite long. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 12.5% Zerbina, Scaccomatto, Albana di Romagna Passito 2013 92 £41.90 (37.5cl) Tannico This passito is a model of delicacy and restraint, with understated candied apricot aromas. The palate shows more typical fruit but only moderate sweetness thanks to Albana’s fine acidity. Intense, elegant and long, with a clean finish. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 12.5%

D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 63

Prosecco Le Rughe “Rivaj” Prosecco Superiore DOCG

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and mandarin, while Gallegati’s Riserva is liquid toffee. However it’s clear that at its best, Albana passito can be counted among Italy’s great sweet wines. Another white variety, Pignoletto, has recently been winning some respect, and it’s certainly capable of producing fresher, livelier wines than Albana. It can also be used for sparkling wines, though I find many of them earthy. I can think of stronger candidates in the Marche and Campania for those seeking out top-quality Italian white wines. A red-wine speciality is Gutturnio, an inexpensive blend, generally of 55%-70% Barbera and 30%-45% Bonarda. Its home base is four valleys within the Colli Piacentini near Lombardy. Barbera contributes freshness and juiciness, while Bonarda gives some structure. It is usually made in a light frizzante style, although the superiore and riserva versions are still wines. Its appeal isn’t hard to imagine when it’s poured lightly chilled alongside a generous platter of salumi, but there seems little reason to grant it too much attention. Trendy, amphora-aged and ‘natural’ wines are produced throughout the region, if in very limited quantities, and are as inconsistent here as they are elsewhere in Europe. La Stoppa has developed a fine reputation for this style – its Ageno is an orange wine mostly from Malvasia – while in contrast, Il Gradizzolo’s amphora-aged Pignoletto is indistinguishable from countless other oxidative orangey wines Below: harvesting Sangiovese grapes from vineyards in the rolling hillsides of Marzeno

Lambrusco’s origins are rooted in a special, unique place: Italy



â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;In the international context, Lambrusco, Sangiovese and Albana passito deserve wider recognitionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; from Italy and Austria. However, Villa Venti makes a success of an amphora-aged Centesimino, and Villa Papianoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Terra Albana is plump and not too oxidative or phenolic.

Photograph: Universal Images Group North America LLC /DeAgostini/Alamy Stock Photo

Strong suits Emilia Romagna needs to play to its strengths. Off-the-radar wines like sparkling Pignoletto or Spergola, and varieties such as Famoso â&#x20AC;&#x201C; as well as styles such as Gutturnio â&#x20AC;&#x201C; may have some local following, but in any international context itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lambrusco, Sangiovese and Albana passito that deserve wider recognition. There are at least a dozen fine Lambrusco producers who shun the absurdly high yields and the sugared-up styles of some cooperatives and large private wineries â&#x20AC;&#x201C; tersely described by Vittorio Graziano as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Lambrusco Schweppesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and their wines are in a unique category: refreshing, dry and stylistically varied. As well as those wines recommended, the following are reliable producers to look out for: Bellei, Cavicchioli, Cleto Chiarli, Graziano, Lini 910, Lombardini and Moretto. D Stephen Brook is an awarded author and has been a Decanter contributing editor since 1996



Gran Selezione revisited Four years on from the first release of Chianti Classico’s top-tier Gran Selezione wines, Monty Waldin assesses the ongoing debate around the classification IN FEBRUARY 2014 the first wines labelled under Chianti Classico’s newly created top-level tier of Gran Selezione were released, from the 2010 vintage. Gran Selezione’s introduction was controversial, to say the least, given that no fewer than 19 different iterations of red Tuscan wines bearing the word ‘Chianti’ already existed. The onus, one might think, was on Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione – funded partly by the wine-growers, but mainly by EU subsidies – to demonstrate its clear points of difference from the two existing tiers below it; namely Chianti Classico Normale at the base of the quality pyramid, and Chianti Classico Riserva, which now finds itself in the middle. Save yourself the eye-watering pain of

‘Gran Selezione can be made only from grapes grown on the property whose name appears on the label’

Giovanni Manetti of the respected Fontodi winery (below)

6 6 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

examining reams of regulations looking for substantive technical wine-growing or winemaking differences between the Chianti Classico trio. There are none. All three styles come from an identical area – nine towns between Siena and Florence, of which more below (and see box, p69); identical grapes (80%-100% Sangiovese, 20% other Tuscan or French grapes); identical maximum yields; and potentially identical winemaking and ageing techniques. Technical differences between bottled Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione are all but non-existent – unless the next time you wander into a wine store you specifically ask for a wine with a dry extract level of 26 grams per litre (Chianti Classico Gran Selezione) rather than one with only 25g/l (Chianti Classico Riserva), or even – heaven forfend – one with only 24g/l (Chianti Classico). To me as a wine lover, the best part of the winemaking side is that no wines in any of the three categories need see any wood. Oak ageing is optional – hooray! Allowing 100% unoaked, 100% Sangiovese Chianti Classico Gran Selezione creates the potential to make what can be the most pure, complex and compelling Sangiovese wines on the planet (yes, my friends in Montalcino of Brunello fame, where lashings of oak are mandatory, you read that right). However, as outlined above, the ‘no oak required’ option already existed for both Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva. I see really only one substantive aspect to Gran Selezione that makes it unique and which Giovanni Manetti, of the muchrespected family-owned Fontodi winery and vice-president of the Consorzio Vino Chianti


Left: hand-picking grapes at harvest time in the Chianti Classico zone in Tuscany Classico (wine-growers’ council) elucidates: ‘Gran Selezione can be made only from grapes grown on the property [‘integralmente prodotto’] whose name appears on the label. By contrast, Chianti Classico can be made from bought-in grapes or bought-in bulk wines.’

Adding value Bulk wine prices for Chianti Classico are three times lower than those for Italy’s other red-wine titans of Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo and Amarone della Valpolicella. Chianti Classico’s market under-valuation is great news for savvy wine buyers and drinkers, and stems from Chianti Classico being often (understandably) muddled in consumers’ minds with basic Chianti wines. This is despite Chianti Classico coming from 20% loweryielding vines compared to Chianti. And in terms of its history, Chianti Classico has pedigree, having been first officially defined as a region in 1716, more than 150 years before Brunello di Montalcino even existed, for example. As mentioned, only nine towns (see box, p69) qualify for Chianti Classico and therefore potential ‘Gran Selezione’ wine status. In contrast, a full nine pages of A4 paper are needed to list the town boundaries of the lesser Chianti zone. So can Gran Selezione be seen as attempting to give Chianti Classico – or the estate-grown and bottled version of it at least – some due market recognition? Apparently not, or not so far anyway, given that only 7% of Chianti Classico’s production is estimated to be bottled as Gran Selezione. Critics say Gran Selezione is devalued by allowing some wineries to label batches of several hundred thousand bottles at a time as such; but as Château Latour makes several hundred thousand bottles each year, then big is not automatically bad. The fact that precise data regarding the success or otherwise of the Gran Selezione category appears to be confidential (despite its creation having benefitted from sizeable EU funds aimed at promoting the farming sector) is an irritant to the likes of Paolo Cianferoni of the Caparsa winery in Radda. ‘Gran Selezione was needless; an extra layer of confusion created by marketing people hoping to help Chianti Classico out of a ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 67

sales crisis,’ Cianferoni states. ‘Gran Selezione was designed to tempt back those producers who switched from labelling their wine as Chianti Classico to labelling them as “Toscana Rosso” instead, when Bordeaux-influenced Chianti-style wines were in fashion. ‘My best wine at Caparsa is labelled Chianti Classico Riserva and won’t become Gran Selezione. Adding value to Chianti Classico should have been so much simpler. Just allow producers to put the name of the village the wine comes from on the label. They do this in Burgundy and it seems to work rather well there. Why can’t we do it here, too?’

Terroir-free The allusion to Burgundy is a frequent Chianti Classico refrain, one usually made by smaller, terroir-driven producers like Monte Bernardi’s Michael Schmelzer. ‘Chianti Classico’s Sangiovese and Burgundy’s Pinot Noir vineyards are the same size,’ he says. ‘We can’t imagine every Pinot Noir leaving the Côte d’Or just being called “Burgundy” – but that’s what we do in Chianti Classico. Every wine leaving Chianti Classico, be it a Riserva or a Gran Selezione, is still just a Chianti Classico. ‘On sales trips I get told, “We love the wines but we already have three Chianti Classicos on the list.” You can’t imagine someone saying “I already have three Bordeaux, or three Burgundies – I don’t need any more.” Barolo lovers actively seek out the differences in Barolos from the communes of, say, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d’Alba.

‘Gran Selezione was needless; an extra layer of confusion created by

Above: the annual tasting of new-release Chianti Classicos in Florence

But, as things stand, Chianti Classico’s producers can’t officially articulate the differences between a wine from any of the region’s nine towns,’ he adds. Both Schmelzer and Roberto Stucchi Prinetti of Badia a Coltibuono in Gaiole would go even further. Stucchi says, ‘Rather than making the Chianti Classico pyramid higher with Gran Selezione, it would have made more sense to have the exact geographic mention of where the grapes came from on the label. Each main Chianti Classico commune has individual terroirs, around hamlets such as Monti in Gaiole, and Lamole or Panzano which are very different parts of Greve, and so on.’ Another sticking point Stucchi Prinetti identifies ‘is that you do not have to declare at harvest that a specific lot of grapes will become a Gran Selezione, so in the end it’s just the tasting panel that chooses just before bottling what can be labelled as such.’ This tasting panel, appointed by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, is fully independent. Yet debates rage about whether the panel favours modern-style wines – very bright fruit, plumped up with a bit of ➢

marketing people hoping out of a sales crisis’ Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa (below)

Chianti by numbers Chianti is made up of eight regions: Chianti, Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montalbano, Chianti Montespertoli and Chianti Rùfina, each of which has a riserva category – so that’s 16 possible names to differentiate between on your wine label already – plus a single Chianti Superiore category (17), plus three types of

Chianti Classico: normale, Riserva and now Gran Selezione (20). The 71,800ha of the Chianti Classico zone covers nine towns: the entire territories of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti and parts of the territories of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa.

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Photograph: Francesco Guazzelli

to help Chianti Classico


Above: Roberto Stucchi Prinetti has doubts over the Classico label

Merlot and sprinkled with vanilla from barrel-ageing – or more traditional, grainier and more obviously Sangiovese wines whose fruit is slower to emerge. Do I love Chianti Classico? Yes, it is one of the world’s great red wines, and still hugely undervalued compared to Brunello or Barolo. The best have mouthwatering, high-wire fruit and deft, savoury richness. But given that the rules for Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione are exactly the same, to all intents and purposes, it is impossible to comment on any differences. The argument that Gran Selezione has allowed producers to sell the same wines for a higher price requires statistics and infallable blind tasters. In my experience Gran Selezione can provide Chianti Classico fans with a

‘Gran Selezione can provide Chianti Classico fans with a representative range of styles, whether 100% Tuscan grapes or Tuscan-French blends’

Above: Monte Bernardi’s Michael Schmelzer bought the Chianti Classico estate in 2003 representative range of styles, whether 100% Tuscan grapes or Tuscan-French blends. Another thing to remember: the rules allow wines made prior to the introduction of Gran Selezione to be bottled as such – Isole e Olena, for example, released a Gran Selezione 2006. The term may mean ‘great selection’, but the only problem is that the people running the show appear ambivalent about making it easier to dig deeper into Chianti Classico’s truly thrilling ‘Gran Selezione’ of world-class micro-terroirs. It’ll happen one day. It has to. D Monty Waldin is a wine writer, author and the DWWA Regional Chair for Tuscany

Waldin’s top Gran Selezione wines to try Fontodi, Vigna del Sorbo 2013 94 £49.99 Hedonism, Liberty, WoodWinters Giovanni Manetti used to add 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to this. He grubbed those vines up, leaving his flagship a pure, richly scented 100% Sangiovese with moreish, crackling depth. Organic. Drink 2018-2025 Alcohol 14.5% Isole e Olena 2010 94 £197.99 Liberty, WoodWinters Paolo de Marchi’s blend of 80% Sangiovese, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Syrah from a five-star vintage. Very rich, very young (still) and very layered. Open it and have one glass a night for six nights in a row to see how its wave-like depth changes over time. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14.5% Castello di Volpaia, Il Puro 2011 92 £60 Millésima UK From a relatively cool site in Chianti Classico’s high centre, but on quick-to-

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warm sandy soil. The result is a Sangiovese whose lushness and crunchiness meld slowly in the glass. Organic. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13.5% I Fabbri 2011 92 N/A UK Susanna Grassi’s wines show lovely tannic fluidity, allowing finely tuned cherry-violet Sangiovese fruit – typical of the Lamole sub-zone of Greve in Chianti from which this comes – to shine. Organic. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14% Casaloste, Don Vincenzo 2010 91 £43.95 Jeroboams, Laytons 95% Sangiovese and 5% Merlot. Giovanni Battista d’Orsi is known for a rich, mouthfilling interpretation of Chianti Classico from a hotspot in Panzano. Like dark chocolate with a vanilla and cherry liqueur twist. Organic. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14.5%

Rocca di Castagnoli, Stielle 2013 90 £27.95 Eurowines A crisp 100% Sangiovese selected from the best lots from a large estate in (relatively cool) Gaiole, whose wines are becoming brighter and more precise. Won Silver at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5% Villa Trasqua, Nerento 2011 90 N/A UK Wine made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Colorino, Malvasia Nera. Bright, rich, smooth dark fruit with an agreeable lick of oak from barrel-ageing. This estate is on the up. Silver medal at DWWA 2017. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14% Castello di Albola 2013 89 £32.99 Zonin UK The Zonin family is successfully fine-tuning its Sangiovese, creating a juicy style with no little depth that is an ideal starting point for those new to the concept of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%



Rocca di Castagnoli A thousand-year-old farm in Chianti Classico


ritten records of cultivation in the hamlet of Castagnoli go back more than a thousand years and the imposing Rocca – or “fortress” – of Castagnoli played its part in the wars between Sienna and Florence in mediaeval times. Rocca di Castagnoli is located in the Gaiole region of Chianti Classico, always important commercially because of its location between the Arno Valley and the Chianti regiont. This is the southern part of today’s Chianti Classico area, first delineated as a premium wine producing area as early as the famous Medici Bando of 1716. Rocca di Castagnoli was one of the original founders of the growers’ association, the Consorzio of Chianti Classico, in 1924. Since 1981 the owners have been the Cali’ family, who have restored the mediaeval castle, developed possibilities for tourism, and modernised the winery. The company’s core business is the production of Chianti Classico wine. Extensive vineyards – 72ha Chianti Classico, 20ha Chianti and the rest IGT (Cabernet Sauvignon,Merlot and Chardonnay) – produce an average of 450,000 bottles,

exported to over 30 countries in the world. The vineyards, most of which have been replanted in the last 15 years, have an average height of 500 metres above sea level, but go up as high as 800 metres, making them some of Chianti Classico’s highest. The climate is moderate, rainfall higher than average, and mists rarely form; low relative humidity and good ventilating breezes make the area particularly suitable for the cultivation of grapes and olives. Company philosophy is to respect and enhance the viticultural traditions of the area by using predominantly native grapes, such as Sangiovese, Colorino, Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo alongside smaller plantations of international varieties, in organic cultivation. Authenticity, quality, respect for the environment, innovation, being true to the territory, and passion are Rocca di Castagnoli’s watchwords.

Grapes come from the eponymous vineyard on hillside slopes surrounding an old monastic building. Grapes: Sangiovese 95%, Canaiolo 5% Vineyards: 15ha, 10-35 years old, 500m asl Planting density: 5000 vines / ha Ageing: 15 months in traditional Chianti barrels and in tonneaux, 6 months in stainless steel and 1 year in bottle. Tasting notes: bright, intense ruby red colour. Rich berry fruit and spices nose. Cherries on the palate. Rich spicy and balsamic finish.

CHIANTI CLASSICO GRAN SELEZIONE, STIELLE Selected clones of Sangiovese, native to this historic vineyard site, make this an authentic jewel in the company’s production. Grapes: Sangiovese Grosso 100% Vineyards: 9ha, 10-35 years old, 600m asl Planting density: 5000 vines / ha Ageing: 18 months in traditional Chianti barrels and in tonneaux, assemblage in large barrels for 4 months, 1 year in bottle. Tasting notes: Red fruit and berry fruit with spiciness and balsamic tinges lifted by the wood which complements the wine’s firm aromas. Very powerful and full bodied on the palate with crunchy tannins. Fresh and elegant in style.

Montalcino grows up Should Brunello be made more like a Burgundy or a Bordeaux? Producers have tried both approaches over the years, says Monty Waldin, but have now acquired the knowledge and confidence to plough their own furrow WHEN I FIRST visited Montalcino more than a decade ago, I felt Italy’s flagship region was trying to imitate two of my old stamping grounds: California and Bordeaux. Plucking leaves from around ripening Sangiovese bunches to create Brunellos with exotic, California-style ripeness was in vogue. But it left the vines looking like they’d had an extreme bikini-line wax. And exposing Sangiovese’s sensitive skins to the full glare of the Mediterranean sun risked vaporising its savoury sour cherry flavours into baked jam.

Another noticeable trend was ageing these overripe Brunellos in new oak barriques, each holding enough wine for just 300 bottles. This aped Bordeaux’s attempt to convert reds with edgy, long-haul tannins into vanilla-infused, short-haul fruit-bombs. Traditionalists say Montalcino’s large wooden vats, botti, which hold several thousand bottles’ worth, help Brunello age for longer overall, even if the wines may appear angular early on. Abandoning these for barriques allowed Brunellos newly released on

Photograph: Andrea Dapueto


to the market, four years after harvest, to taste more agreeably plump in the race for high scores from the critics. The risk was that ‘Italy’s most ageworthy’ red would lose its ageworthiness – too few 1997s and 2004s (both five-star vintages) have stood the test of time, for example. Allegations that, despite having to be a 100% Sangiovese wine, some Brunellos had been blended with French grapes to give the wines darker, lusher fruit robust enough to cope with barrel ageing, gave rise to the so-called ‘Brunellopoli’ scandal in March 2008. ‘Ink made by the carpenter,’ is how Giuseppe Sesti describes the wines from this period. Sesti, a Venetian intellectual, historian and astronomer, founded the Castello di Argiano winery in the 1970s. Another new arrival then was the Schwarz family of La Màgia. ‘Only 20 or so Montalcino wineries bottled their own wines then,’ says Fabian Schwarz, who represents the second generation. ‘Gradually, Montalcino’s [then] 150 or so

Above: Giuseppe Sesti with his daughter Elisa on the Castello di Argiano estate

grape-growers started bottling their own wines too. It made financial sense. But with no winemaking experience, they relied on consultants, leading to a degree of standardisation. Now, as their successors are less risk-averse, there are bigger stylistic differences from winery to winery.’ ➢

Above: Tenute Silvio Nardi’s Manachiara vineyards, with Montalcino in the distance

‘Picking perfectly ripe allows winemakers the most freedom of all’ Mauro Monicchi (above)

Schwarz’s Brunellos are ethereal but intensely flavoured, in part because he lets his hand-picked grapes infuse in their own cool juice for a few days before fermentation starts, a common practice in Burgundy. He also cites the increasing prevalence – again as in Burgundy – of organics in Montalcino. ‘Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are both fragile grape varieties, but well-executed organic practices, such as replacing soluble mineral fertilisers with natural grassing, produce smaller berries, with thicker, more-disease-resistant skins. You get deeper but not heavier wines.’

Organics and oak One-fifth of Brunello wineries are now organic, including three of Montalcino’s five biggest estates – Lamberto Frescobaldi’s Castelgiocondo, the Ghezzi family’s Camigliano and Francesco Marone Cinzano’s Col d’Orcia, which dates back to 1890. Schwarz sees organics as ‘a prevent rather than cure philosophy in the vines. Being more interventionist in the vineyard allows potentially less intervention in the winery. With organics, both grape flavours and grape sugars [potential alcohol] ripen in sync. This allows more creative winemaking and less need of winemaking technology for technology’s sake’. One Burgundy technique unsuited here is fermenting Sangiovese as whole bunches. ‘Leaving Sangiovese’s stems in during

Photograph: Clay McLachlan/

Waldin’s top 12 Brunello di Montalcinos Salicutti, Piaggione Riserva 2011 99 £52.60 Goedhuis & Co Sangiovese heaven. Ethereal, powerful, elegant, intense, balanced and very refreshing – a supreme expression of how grape, place and people can combine in true harmony. A perfect wine with a nearperfect score. Organic. Drink 2018-2040 Alcohol 14.5% Pian dell’Orino 2009 97 £62.59-£74.99 BI, Les Caves de Pyrene A really hot year, but no sense of baked, jammy fruit here. Smooth and intense; you really get a sense of the underlying power of southern Montalcino’s terroir. Biodynamic. Drink 2018-2035 Alc 14%

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Podere San Giuseppe, Stella di Campalto Riserva 2010 97 £125 Atlas Fine Wines, Fine & Rare, Handford, WoodWinters

A sun-trap Sangiovese from the wilder, warmer, south side of town. Lightly coloured, powerfully perfumed and intensely, agreeably textured. Lovely – but the longer you delay gratification, the more you’ll get from this. Biodynamic. Drink 2018-2040 Alc 14.5% Salicutti 2012 97 £44.17 (ib) -£65 Christopher Keiller, Four Walls, Goedhuis & Co, Handford

If terroir-driven wines taste only of soil or site, what of the guiding hand of man? This wine is a story of constant but

infintessimal fine-tuning in vineyard and winery. A wine structured like a bespoke silk jacket. It fits, thrills and fills you with a warm glow. Drink 2018-2032 Alc 15% San Polino 2010 97 £82.60 Corney & Barrow San Polino’s Brunellos are marked by generous layers of fruit, tannins that are equally deep, and a welcome, smooth savouriness which effortlessly draws you in. On top form on this showing. Organic. Drink 2018-2040 Alc 14.5% Siro Pacenti, Vecchie Vigne 2012 97 £60 Armit, Jeroboams, Laytons Giancarlo Pacenti’s selection of old vines uses age and experience to add a velvety


Above: Francesco Marone Cinzano’s Col d’Orcia has converted to organic methods

wrap around firm, crunchy, beautifully focused tannins. This is a crowd-pleaser with brains. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 14.5% Il Marroneto, Madonna delle Grazie 2011 96 £72.60 Goedhuis & Co Brunello’s version of a Clos de Vougeot, with historic vineyards next to an iconic religious building (a small church rather than a huge monastery, in this case). Ripe, clear and violet-scented, this is a succulent sipper. Drink 2018-2035 Alc 14.5% Campi di Fonterenza 2011 95 £47.83 (ib) Clarion Wines A remarkably unforced style of Brunello whose lip-smackingly wild streak of firm hawthorn, rosehip and other hedgerow

fermentation risks very green-tasting Brunellos,’ says consultant Mauro Monicchi. ‘Whole berries, yes [as in Schwarz’s case, above]; whole bunches, no.’ Monicchi studied in Bordeaux when it too was aping California’s overripe style, but chose another path. ‘There is a short window, just a few hours, between when a grape is underripe, perfectly ripe, and overripe,’ he says. ‘Picking perfectly ripe (grapes) allows winemakers the most freedom of all. There is less need to force colour and tannin out of the grapes and into the wine. And it allows more flexibility with the size and kind of oak you can then age the wine in.’ Flexibility regarding oak is built into Brunello di Montalcino’s rules. Producers can choose the size and origin of oak they use, so long as the wine spends 24 months maturing in the wood before bottling (36 months for Brunello riserva). Monicchi’s clients have included both larger Montalcino estates such as the renascent Tenute Silvio Nardi (a 2016 DWWA Gold medal winner for its Brunello 2011), and smaller, under-the-radar ones like Caprili, Siro Pacenti and Villa i Cipressi. Oak regimes across these estates vary, from 225-litre barriques to 6,000-litre wooden vats or botti grandi. ‘Sangiovese picked at perfect ripeness digests its oak, without the need to overextract tannin, colour or flavour during winemaking,’ says Monicchi. ➢

fruits is unique in Montalcino. Biodynamic. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14.5%

‘In our case, ageing Brunello in barriques is not done to mimic Bordeaux or Burgundy’ Giancarlo Pacenti (above)

balanced fruit. Showing beautifully now. Organic. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 15%

La Màgia 2011 95 £24-£26.75 (ib) Crump Richmond

Le Ragnaie 2012 95 £37-£42 Fine & Rare, Justerini & Brooks,

Shaw, Fine & Rare


Aged 36 months in 500-litre tonneaux, 33% new, though you’d never guess. The fruit’s wild strength, ripeness and delicacy shine through, a testament to the old (1970s) vines it comes from. Organic. Drink 2018-2026 Alc 14.5%

Riccardo Campinoti vinifies his far-flung vine plots separately, and all slightly differently. This blend has Sangiovese’s bright red cherry fruit with rippling, savoury tannins. He’s on delicious form. Organic. Drink 2018-2027 Alc 14.5%

Le Macioche, Riserva 2006 95 POA Top Selection The mid-2000s was an uneasy, uneven period for Brunello, but this small estate in Montalcino’s warm southeast has been consistent, making Brunello with classic Sangiovese flavours and wonderfully

Tenute Silvio Nardi 2011 94 £32.99-£38 Champagnes & Châteaux, Fine & Rare, Tannico, Weavers of Nottingham

Of Montalcino’s bigger estates, this is the most improved over recent years. It has really got on top of its very varied terroirs to be able to make much clearer, less forced wines with a lovely salty, ripe, red cherry lick. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14.5%

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As another Monicchi client, Giancarlo Pacenti of the highly regarded Siro Pacenti notes: ‘In our case, ageing Brunello in barriques is not done to mimic Bordeaux or Burgundy – even though Burgundy is where the wood for our barrels comes from. We select it, and we age it for 20 years before turning it into barriques. We are not looking for oaky notes, but oak that lets our Brunello breathe while it’s ageing. This gives us smoother tannins, and purer fruit and terroir expression. Consumers get a longer, more flexible window of drinkability too. That’s really important for a wine like Brunello.’

Down to earth

Photograph: Andrea Dapueto

But because Montalcino’s terroir is so varied – Schwarz calls it ‘a four-sided pyramid with a cooler north side, a warmer south side, and an especially Mediterranean-influenced southwestern side’ – what works for one winery may not work for another. Hence Francesco Leanza of Podere Salicutti, Stella di Campalto of San Giuseppe and Jan Erbach of Pian dell’Orino collaborated on a soil mapping project, the first (and so far only one) of its type in Montalcino. Erbach describes Sangiovese as: ‘A very Burgundian grape in the sense that, like Pinot Noir, it really transmits the subtle nuances of soil and site. Burgundy’s grand and premier cru vineyards often follow distinct soil types mapped by monks 1,000 years ago. We [three] mapped our soils, to see what possibilities existed to make wines from single soil types.’ Erbach’s Cancello Rosso (‘Red Gate’) vineyard, for example, is no bigger than a soccer field, but has two distinct soils, one 30 million years older than the other. Grapes from each are farmed and fermented differently. This soil-mapping initiative has so far been largely shunned by Montalcino’s power brokers.

Right: varied soil samples from Tenute Silvio Nardi

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‘Sangiovese is

Above: Pian dell’Orino’s co-owner Jan Erbach (front left) helps out sorting the grapes at harvest

a very Burgundian grape in the sense that, like Pinot Noir, it really transmits the subtle nuances of soil and site’ Jan Erbach (above)

Dividing Montalcino into Burgundy-style ‘climats’ or sub-zones – Argiano, Canalicchio, Montosoli, Santa Restituta and Sesta would be prime candidates – is unlikely to happen. Every square metre, even the tarmac in Montalcino’s supermarket car park, would have to be classed as grand cru quality to keep everyone happy, it seems. Despite this, ‘Brunellopoli has had both positive and negative consequences’, says Francesca Padovani, who planted the organicfrom-scratch Campi di Fonterenza vineyard from 2000 with her twin sister Margherita. ‘There is pressure to please the market. Brunello is Italy’s most expensive, best-known wine. In the 1990s people were looking towards Bordeaux in style. Ultimately you have to focus on what Sangiovese [‘Brunello’] gives here, and try to express that.’ Maurizio Castelli, a consultant who sees organic growing as the way to give winemakers more winemaking freedom in the long term, agrees. ‘The influence that journalists and critics have on Brunello’s styling has diminished. The current generation of Montalcino producers has more experience, and a deeper knowledge of their terroir. They now have the self-confidence to express what to them Brunello should be, from whatever soil, terroir or situation they happen to have. It was much easier to generalise about Brunello a decade or so ago. It’s more difficult to do that now.’ D Monty Waldin is a widely published wine writer, author and DWWA Regional Chair for Tuscany


Above: Princess Isabella Collalto de Croÿ

Prosecco from Collalto A thousand years of history, a thousand years of viticultural passion


he Collalto dynasty has been lords of the hills of Prosecco, generation after generation, since 958 AD, over a thousand years ago. Viticulture and winemaking has always been at the heart of this historical association. A passion for winemaking and dedication to the task have meant that this family-run business has a special expertise in the making of Prosecco that has enabled them to ensure the historical continuity of their lands and their identity as producers of premium wines. The heir, or rather heiress, to this unique historic patrimony is Princess Isabella Collalto de Croÿ who has personally taken charge of the vineyards and winery that she inherited from her father in 2007 and now runs the enterprise in a fashion true to the family tradition. Her priorities now are innovations in sustainability for the vineyards and research into further

qualitative improvements for the wines. The Collalto lands extend to 380ha, of which no fewer than 164 are planted to vines and are consequently a major part of the viticultural and winemaking history of the Conegliano region. 94ha of the 164 are dedicated to the production of the highest quality Prosecco Superiore DOCG, making Collalto one of the most important producers. Since the early 1990s, Azienda Agricola Conte Collalto has been engaged in an intensive programme of vineyard replanting designed to create an ideal farming balance in the company’s historic vineyard sites. The programme is still going on today and means in practice the adoption of viticultural

training techniques in certain parts of the estate that are less prolific but produce better quality grapes. Another important project involves a team of agronomists carrying out in-depth research into company vineyard soils, so as to get the best quality grapes from the most suitable vine types, all native, and bring out the best local characteristics. The overall aim is to bring out the best in the company’s vineyard sites with a wide range of experimental processes. One of the most important results of this programme is the creation of a new Collalto Prosecco Superiore ConeglianoValdobbiadene DOCG: the Ponte Rosso Brut Nature Millesimato 2017. Ponte Rosso is a place near the Castle of San Salvatore where the soil is particularly rich in clay, so much so that it once provided the raw material for the red bricks used in the construction of buildings in the territory of Collalto, including Ponte Rosso or “Red Bridge”, named after its striking colour. Glera grapes grown in the region are rich in minerals and perfect for the making of Brut Nature style wine: well structured, minerally and austere, just like Ponte Rosso. All four of the Collalto Proseccos will now be produced as Millesimato or “Vintage” products, reflecting the company’s advances in the vineyards and in the cellars and the use of the best grapes for the range.

Regional profile

Colline Teramane Characterful Montepulciano d’Abruzzo reds top the bill in this small region in Abruzzo’s north, but there’s an intriguing cast of other white and rosé styles to discover too, says Susan Hulme MW

WHEN COLLINE TERAMANE became a DOCG in 2003, it took a big step forward along the road to quality. Its creation was not just window dressing or the result of political machinations; the DOCG has real teeth. To start with, it is the first denomination in Abruzzo to base its yield regulations on yield per vine rather than on hectolitres per hectare. Measuring yield by kilograms per vine is a much more rigorous and honest representation of true yield and potential concentration as opposed to yield per hectare, where dead or diseased vines can artificially affect the yield,

making it seem lower than it truly is. Colline Teramane DOCG is also the only Abruzzo denomination for the Montepulciano grape which requires the wines to be bottled within the production zone. This is a bold declaration of intent, bearing in mind that Abruzzo is still dominated by large-scale cooperatives; about 55% to 60% of the wine produced today is still sold in bulk and six out of 10 bottles are bottled outside the region. Abruzzo covers a large area, and is situated on the eastern side of Italy, about two-thirds down the leg of the boot. Montepulciano

Six names to look out for Abbazia di Propezzano

Falanghina, Pecorino, Passerina and Paolo de Strasser’s wines are giving a Trebbiano fermented in amphorae. new lease of life to Propezzano Abbey, Emidio Pepe where wine has been made since the Emidio Pepe’s wines have sixth century. I love the iconic status not only in the super-modern look of the Colline Teramane and wines and even more the Abruzzo but worldwide. fact that he likes pushing An artisanal producer par the boundaries with his excellence, he cultivates winemaking. Although he his grapes biodynamically specialises in singleand makes wines as varietal wines made from naturally as possible, with indigenous grapes, be sure Paolo de Strasser no added yeast or sulphur. to try his blend of

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Above: the Masciarelli estate was the first in the region to introduce Guyot-trained vines

What is amazing is the ability of these wines to age so positively – as well as how beautifully they will evolve in the glass. One not to be missed.

Faraone Vini Federico Faraone makes a very smart sparkling wine from the indigenous Passerina grape. Its low pH and high acidity means these wines can age a little too. Vines are planted on the hills near Borgo Spoltino where naturally fresh,


Vintage guide


A fresh vintage that rewarded careful work in the vineyard, especially at harvest. Elegant and pleasant wines, very drinkable.


A good vintage, with a little rain to refresh a hot summer. Excellent white wines and good reds. Keep.

2014 ‘The region’s Montepulciano

wines have a style best described as

an “iron fist in a velvet glove”’

Above: winemaker Luigi Valori has a respect for the simple pleasures in life and farms organically d’Abruzzo DOC is its most important denomination, comprising 57% of plantings and covering about 19,000ha. Its 800,000hl of wine accounts for almost 80% of the region’s quality wine, and the trend is for steady growth. By contrast, Colline Teramane DOCG only produces about 5,000hl per year, so the challenge is to deliver some identity and quality in the glass that sets it apart from the rest of the region. The DOCG’s Montepulciano wines have a style best described as an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’, in that some of the heft and fleshiness of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in a hot climate is balanced by a firm tannic grip, fresh acidity and a herbal, rosemary quality on some wines, which is derived from their particular terroir.

Climate control The DOCG is in Teramo, the northernmost of Abruzzo’s four provinces. It is bounded to the west by the Monti della Laga and to the ➢

calcareous soils limit yield and produce the quality Faraone is looking for. The very appealing Faraone Spumante Classico NV is non-dosage.

they make some of the best traditional-method sparkling wines in the region, not to mention some of the best Montepulciano wines.



Winter was cold with average rain, spring was good and summer was hot. Rain in the final phase of ripening reduced the juice concentration. So not a good year for the riservas. Drink soon.


Cold winter without much rain, but abundant rain in spring made up for this. A very hot summer resulted in another great year for the riserva wines. Keep.


A good vintage for some, albeit a little rainy but hot during summer; it was necessary to thin bunches. Good wines. Keep for a while.


Very cold winter with rain and two weeks of snow. A very hot summer giving a very good to exceptional year. Balanced and elegant wines. Keep.


Cold winter, with a lot of rain and one week of snow. However, both spring and summer were hot. A good year for riservas. Keep.


Mild, wet winter, followed by a wet spring and a hot summer; too humid in some areas. Powerful reds and not-so-fresh whites. Drink soon.

The Illuminati family has a Marina Cvetic has Marina Cvetic long association with continued the work of her Colline Teramane, having made wine in husband Gianni Masciarelli, who sadly the area since 1890. The company is now died in 2008 in his early 50s. Gianni was a in the hands of Stefano and Lorenzo pioneer of Abruzzo wines and one of the Illuminati, who use the latest winemaking first to introduce the Guyot training technology to make quality wines. With system and the use of French oak to the the aid of temperature-controlled cellars, region. These wines have international

appeal, but there is breadth and depth to the range – from good-quality, accessible and affordable bottles to the excellent single-vineyard wines.

Valori Standing with Luigi Valori last year in his 40-year-old vineyard Vigna Sant’Angelo, the intense June heat mitigated by a breeze, it was impossible not to share his enthusiasm. He is a lover of philosophy, committed to his vineyards and with a deep appreciation of nature and the simple pleasures in life. Cultivation has been organic since 2015 and the poor, sandy soils give excellent wines.

D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 79

To Ancona




Controguerra DOC





A24 Limit of Abruzzo wine region

3 Teramo no Voma TERAMO Atri SO






Ionian Sea






Tyrrhenian Sea




Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC

a ar



To Rome


42 6







s Pe

Adriatic Sea









ABRUZZO To Taranto

Map: Maggie Nelson

Abruzzo wineries 1 2 3 4 5 6

Abbazia di Propezzano Emidio Pepe Faraone Vini Illuminati Masciarelli Valori

Limit of Abruzzo wine region








Colline Teramane at a glance Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG Red grape varieties Montepulciano (min 90%), Sangiovese (max 10%) Vineyard area 103ha

White Trebbiano, Pecorino, Passerina and international varieties Red Montepulciano and international varieties Vineyard area 39ha

Controguerra DOC Grape varieties

Colli Aprutini IGT Grape varieties

numerous are permitted, both Italian and international varieties Vineyard area 175ha Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC Grape varieties Montepulciano (100%) Vineyard area 608ha

south/southwest by the Gran Sasso massif, which includes Corno Grande, the highest peak in the Apennines; to the east lie a chain of golden beaches on the Adriatic coast. Average temperatures throughout the growing period (2,000 degree days) ensure that the Montepulciano grapes reach optimum maturation, but the specific location of Colline Teramane creates a special mesoclimate that’s beneficial to the vine. Cooling breezes from the sea during the day temper the intense summer heat and prevent over-ripening, while cool mountain winds roll down from snowcapped mountains at night, creating dramatic temperature differences between night and day, and preserving acidity in the grapes. Add this to hillside vineyard sites with clay and limestone sub-soils and you get the key ingredients for a special terroir. It is Abruzzo’s only DOCG, so, using the same beloved red variety, Montepulciano, can it deliver in terms of quality and identity? According to Enrico Cerulli, vice-president of the Consorzio di Tutela Colline Teramane, a strong DOCG is based upon three tenets: specific geographic conditions, a specific grape variety and human influence. Certainly Colline Teramane satisfies the first two, and among the 50 producers who are members of the consorzio there is a strong core of very good to great producers. One of these, Stefano Illuminati, says: ‘Being awarded the DOCG in 2003 meant we could be

Hulme’s top Abruzzo whites and reds to try Emidio Pepe, Pecorino, Colli Aprutini 2O15 92 £114 Buon Vino Natural winemaking at its best. This evolves beautifully in the glass, revealing bruised apple, honey and Champagne-like aromas. Then come contrasting green herb and candied lemon peel flavours; round, soft and creamy texture with a long, salty finish. Flows beautifully across the palate. Drink 2018-2025 Alcohol 14%

Abbazia di Propezzano, Pecorino, Colli Aprutini 2016 90 POA Swig Medium-deep lemon colour, bright aromas of white flowers and apples, bright and breezy on the palate, with juicy acidity and

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a long, savoury, salty finish. A very stylish wine from a producer who combines the best traditions with a modern twist. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.5%

Strappelli, Soprano Pecorino, Colli Aprutini 2016 90 N/A UK Pale lemon/lime, bright yellow apple, rosemary and sage-like notes on the nose, concentrated and full mid-palate, with a lingering, savoury finish. I love the contrast here between the fresh, crunchy green apple, citrus notes and rich texture, in combination with the creamy, salty flavours. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14%

Masciarelli, Villa Gemma, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo 2016 90 £15 Les Caves de Pyrene

This is a serious style of rosé and just how the Abruzzesi like to drink it. Deep cherry colour, bold blueberry and raspberry flavours, mouthwateringly juicy acidity and a lingering, savoury, dry finish. Deliciously drinkable. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 13.5%

Camillo Montori, Fonte Cupa, Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 93 £23.50 Bat & Bottle Intriguing aromas of dense, dark-berried fruit, black cherry and blackberry, with notes of coal and tar. Super-smooth texture, deep concentration and firm but finely compact tannins give this traditional style wine the wow factor. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15%


Left: Montepulciano in the Illuminati vineyard

White magic

Photographs: Time Agency (2)

proud of our Montepulciano grapes. It was an acknowledgement of the variety’s better and different qualities… and we must express all of the potential of this extraordinary grape so that we can really be the best area for Montepulciano in Abruzzo.’ Cerulli adds: ‘The Colline Teramane Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOCG is the ambassador of this territory, representing simply its characteristics of elegance, restraint, character and ambition.’

‘We must express all of the potential of this extraordinary grape so we can really be the best area for Montepulciano in Abruzzo’ Stefano Illuminati (above)

Illuminati, Zanna, Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2011 93 £30.46 Mondial Only made in the best years. Grapes come from 50-year-old vines planted in the Zanna vineyard. Powerful and intense on the palate yet with a great balance and elegance. Violet and sweet liquorice aromas. Rich, velvety texture, with fresh, green herb notes, bright acidity and fine tannins. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14.5%

Masciarelli, Villa Gemma, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011 93 £43.85-£53.50 Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene, Vini Italiani

Grapes come from the 30-year-old Cave vineyard, which is just 7ha in size. Pristine aromas of lavender and beeswax, with dark red and black berry fruit. Velvety smooth texture with compact, refined tannins and

However, Montepulciano is not the only player on the scene in Teramo. In Controguerra DOC and in the wider Colli Aprutini IGT, native white varieties such as Passerina and particularly Pecorino – with its lively, bright lemon, savoury qualities – are becoming fashionable and sought-after. Another trend is for some producers to experiment with natural winemaking, coaxing more out of native grapes such as the widely grown Trebbiano, while challenging and redefining our understanding of them. Some delicious sparkling wines are also being made from these indigenous white varieties. Equally delightful are the deeply coloured rosé Montepulciano wines made under the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC. These more flavoursome, serious, traditional-style rosatos are gaining popularity in their native Italy, where the locals enjoy them with their typical Sunday night pizza Margherita instead of the more traditional beer and pizza combination which used to be alla moda. All in all, there really is a lot to enjoy and discover in this corner of Abruzzo. D Susan Hulme MW runs her own wine education and consultancy company, Vintuition, and has lived and worked in Italy

plum, cream and spice flavours. Opulence is held in check with firm tannins and juicy acidity. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 13.5%

Tenuta Barone di Valforte, Colle Sale, Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013 93 £25.60 Colasanti There is a wonderful texture and weight to this wine, which is silky and concentrated on the palate without being heavy. Rich dark fruit, smoke and tar notes are balanced by green herb flavours and fresh, mouthwatering acidity. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 14%

Valori, Vigna Sant’Angelo, Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 93 £14.43 Tannico

Inky black core, narrow youthful purple rim, lovely nose with super-clean, sweet oak spice, ripe black cherries, blackberries and cinnamon spice. Very concentrated with a velvety smooth texture and dark fruits, liquorice and spice flavours; but balanced by firm tannins and refreshing acidity. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 14.5%

Cerulli Spinozzi, Torre Miglori, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 90 N/A UK A single-vineyard wine aged for 22 months in French barriques. Complex aromas of warm toast, coffee bean, smoke and tar with dark cherry, raspberry and rosemary notes. Very elegant, with nicely managed tannins; the palate is concentrated yet refined, rather than hefty. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14%

D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 81

Aglianico in Campania One of Italy’s oldest red grapes, Aglianico is most at home in this southern region, where it makes structured, long-lived wines. Susan Hulme MW profiles the best areas and producers AGLIANICO IS ONE of the world’s great grape varieties. It is certainly one of Italy’s three top-quality red grapes, along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. If Barolo and Barbaresco, Brunello and Chianti are northern and central Italy’s vinous odes to greatness, then the Aglianico of Taurasi is certainly Italy’s southern counterpart. A great grape must have several features. These include an historical pedigree; the intrinsic qualities of the variety itself; the ability to produce wines that can age; and the ability to express differences of location or to transmit terroir. Mastroberardino is historically the most important Taurasi producer, with a family history going back to the mid-1800s – for many years it was the lone defender and champion of Aglianico. ‘Its origins are very ancient,’ explains Piero Mastroberardino, who believes that the introduction of Aglianico to 82 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Above: Feudi di San Gregorio owns some of the oldest Aglianico vines in Italy Campania can be traced back to ancient Greek settlements in the south of Italy, in around the 6th or 7th century BC. Even the name is said to have Greek origins, being a corruption of Vitis Hellenica (Greek vine). This belief is challenged by Jancis Robinson MW, who reports that DNA analysis can find no connection with any of today’s Greek grape varieties. But whatever its origins, Aglianico is undoubtedly one of Italy’s oldest grape varieties.

Place and personality

Above: Perillo is one of the wineries exploring Aglianico’s potential

Mastroberardino gives a description of the variety’s special qualities. ‘The particular values of this ancient variety are the great polyphenolic and aromatic qualities, as well as the acidity level, which is generally higher than in other red grape varieties,’ he says, adding that this gives ‘increased longevity’. I recently tasted a selection of several 20-year-old Taurasi wines from the mid-1990s which, unbelievably, still seemed a little too youthful. Indeed, Mastroberardino still shows wines going back as far as the 1950s and 1960s which have the freshness and tenacity


Sub-regional expressions

of much younger wines. These are truly some of the longest-lived wines in Italy. Aglianico can be found in Molise, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Basilicata (home of Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG), but it is in Campania where it finds many of its best expressions. There are two DOCGs here: Taurasi DOCG (established 1993) and Aglianico del Taburno DOCG (since 2011), and there are also a multitude of smaller DOCs in which it features, usually as a single variety but also blended with other local varieties such as Piedirosso. The grape has three different biotypes – Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata, Aglianico del Taburno in Benevento and Aglianico di Taurasi. To add to this complexity, there are a multitude of clones. Antonio Capaldo of Feudi di San Gregorio remarks that all three DOCG areas have many historic vineyards, whereas in the 1980s and 1990s in many other parts of Italy, vines were replanted with a limited number of clones leading to a much-reduced genetic biodiversity in the planting material. A University of Milan analysis of Feudi di San Gregorio’s old Dal Re vineyard, from which its Serpico wine is sourced, was found to contain more than 40 Aglianico clones among vines aged between 120 and 180 years old. Few grape varieties in Italy have the viticultural richness and heritage to be found in these old Aglianico vineyards.


1 Volturno

Above: Piero Mastroberardino

Above: Antonio Capaldo, president of Feudi di San Gregorio












4 BA





Bay of Naples




Salerno Bay










Tyrrhenian Sea


Other wine regions


Map: Maggie Nelson



Aglianico in Campania CALABRIA

Ionian Sea S I C I LY




1 2 3 4 5

Aglianico del Taburno DOCG Taurasi DOCG Taurasi Riserva DOCG Avellino Cilento DOC


Even within Campania, Aglianico expresses itself very differently, with strong variations between Salerno and Paestum on the coast and the inland areas of Avellino (roughly equivalent to the ancient region of Irpinia) and Benevento. Taurasi is perhaps the most well-known Aglianico denomination and was the first DOCG to be awarded in the whole of southern Italy. It encompasses the area surrounding the Avellino hills, about an hour’s drive inland from Naples – Italy’s deep south. Here, Aglianico produces deeply coloured wines with bracing acidity, firm tannins and high alcohol which have the ability to age for 50 years or more in the right location and the right hands. When tasting, the wines are characterised by black and red berried fruit aromas, with black olive and green herb notes and flavours in youth, developing spicier, tobacco notes with age. Many of the more traditional-style Taurasi need time to mature. However, as with Barolo there are producers who adopt a more modernist approach, using barrique and micro-oxygenation techniques to make wines that are more drinkable when young. Riccardo Cotarella, one of Italy’s leading consultant oenologists, comments: ‘Aglianico is an outstanding marker of the territory. It is able to express where it comes from like few other vines.’ Taurasi, in the province of Avellino, is much cooler than the coast, and within the 17 villages that make up the Taurasi DOCG there are significant differences between soil (largely volcanic but with significant quantities of clay, limestone and sand) and altitude (ranging from 200m to over 900m above sea level). Aglianico is the last grape variety in Italy to ripen, but to achieve full phenolic ripeness it needs a long, slow maturation, so colder clay or clay-limestone soils are ideal. It also, as Pierpaolo Sirch, CEO of Feudi di San Gregorio comments, ‘needs a dry, well-ventilated site ➢

‘Aglianico is an outstanding marker of the territory. It is able to express where it comes from like few other vines’ Riccardo Cotarella D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 8 3

especially in the final phase of ripening’ to avoid problems of rot. North of Avellino and further inland at Benevento, historically associated with legends of witchcraft and home of the liqueur Strega (the Italian word for ‘witch’), soils are fertile and deep, but because of the higher sand content they retain the heat more efficiently. This in general produces wines with less power and acidity and with alcohol levels usually ranging between 12.5% and 14.5%. The wines are often medium-bodied, with medium acidity and with red berry aromas and flavours; there is a contrasting and attractively bitter note to the tannins. North of Naples in Caserta, where the Falerno del Massico DOC wines can be made with Primitivo or Aglianico, the volcanic soils are very high in potassium so have a high pH that generally produces wines with a little less acidity, better suited to early drinking rather than long ageing. The Aglianico produced here is slim but elegant with spicy tobacco notes. In the Cilento region, some exciting earlier-drinking Aglianico is being produced just inland from Paestum. The climate is moderated by its proximity to the coast, although there are some higher elevation points which result in a different mesoclimate, such as the site for San Salvatore’s vineyards.

Their winemaker Alessandro Leoni describes Aglianico from Cilento as showing ‘the same behaviour as Merlot in Bolgheri’, becoming ‘smooth and round and ready within one year of the harvest’. These wines have an appealing luminosity, and intensity of aromas (bright blackberry, liquorice and spice) and a clarity of flavours which make them very easy to love, almost as if Aglianico grown near the coast takes on a sunnier personality.

Built to last So why isn’t Aglianico more popular? Well, it is naturally a very tannic grape and traditionalstyle wines tend to need at least 10 to 15 years to come around – not something which suits the modern drinker – and this may have coloured its reputation somewhat. But now there is a much better general understanding of how to get the best out of Aglianico in both the vineyard and the winery, particularly by having a gentler pressing, extracting the tannins from just the skins and avoiding the stalks and seeds. Campania also offers a variety of styles, some of which allow early drinking without losing the essential character of the grape. It is a grape variety which rewards patience, as aromas and flavours evolve in the glass over time, revealing the hidden depths and

Above: Aglianico growing in Taurasi, in the Avellino province, where 17 villages make up the Taurasi DOCG

Hulme’s dream dozen Aglianico wines Feudi di San Gregorio, Serpico, Irpinia, Taurasi 2009 96 £40.93-£45 (2010) Dulwich

Photograph: Antonio Capone/4Corners Images

Vintners, Wineman

Grapes come from the ancient Dal Re vineyard with vines aged between 120 and 180 years. Vividly impressive – the powerful Aglianico is tamed by a sophisticated structure. A nervy, vibrant and edgy style. Drink 2019-2030 Alcohol 14% Mastroberardino, Naturalis Historia, Taurasi 2007 96 £42.95 Eurowines Mastroberardino’s flagship, singlevineyard wine from 40-year-old-plus vines and Aglianico at its sophisticated best. Roast coffee beans, smoky bonfire and nuanced, floral, violet aromas announce its distinctively volcanic

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personality. Saturated dark fruits, long and enticing. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 13.5% Quintodecimo, Vigna Quintodecimo, Taurasi Riserva 2012 96 £101.09 Justerini & Brooks There is a brightness and clarity to the aromas and flavours of this wine that put it in a different class. Rhubarb and flint notes, concentrated without being heavy, dances on the palate with a lightness of touch. Great precision, elegance and vibrancy. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 14.5% Di Meo, Taurasi Riserva 2008 94 £35 Oliver & Bird From the Vigna Olmo vineyard grown at 850m comes a wine with red fruits, pepper, spice and black olive aromas reminiscent of the Rhône. Very smooth,

harmonious and balanced wine. Flows beautifully and effortlessly across the palate. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5% Perillo, Taurasi Riserva 2008 94 £35 Berry Bros & Rudd Michele Perillo has produced a wine with beautifully silky, refined and textured tannins, plus layers of red and black berried fruit, spice and smoke notes. Ends with a long, savoury, mineral finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14% Cantine Antonio Caggiano, Vigna Macchia dei Goti, Taurasi 2013 93 £27.98 Tannico From the Macchia dei Goti single vineyard, 350m above sea level, on clay/limestone soils. Savoury aromas give way to cassis and raspberry; medium-bodied, with smoothly integrated tannins and vibrant acidity, with contrasting blackberry and olive flavours. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 14%


Above: winemaker Antonio Caggiano

‘Few grape varieties in Italy have the viticultural richness and heritage to be found in these old Aglianico vineyards’ Il Cancelliere, Nero Né, Taurasi 2011 93 £39 Buon Vino Nero Né is truly an authentic expression of Aglianico grown on the slopes of Montemarano. Full of dark flavours and aromas of roasted coffee beans, soy sauce, black olive and blackberry. Lovely silky texture with a vivid, lingering finish. Drink 2018-2028 Alc 15.5% San Salvatore 1988, Omaggio a Gillo Dorfles, Paestum 2013 93 £39 Uvinum Super-clean and precise aromas of blackberry, black pepper and spice, with light tar and smoke notes too. Concentrated and compact; juicy and modern. Full of bright fruit flavours with some exotic oak spice and incense notes. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 15.5%

complexity that only the great grape varieties can consistently deliver. Claudio Panetta of Il Cancelliere sums it up perfectly, describing Aglianico as ‘a gastronomic wine, but also a meditation wine that can be drunk young for its exuberance and can be preserved and enjoyed in its maturity’. Perhaps another ingredient for greatness should be mentioned: the producers. There is a real feeling of excitement about Aglianico’s future among the growing community of producers, some of whom have converted from being simple grape-growers into producers themselves, but who all have a passion for the grape. Historic names such as Mastroberardino, Antonio Caggiano and Salvatore Molettieri have been joined by Feudi di San Gregorio, Il Cancelliere, Luigi Moio, Roberto di Meo, Luigi Tecce, Perillo, Colli di Lapio, Pietracupa, Ciro Picariello and many more. These producers believe in Aglianico’s potential and are researching, experimenting and exchanging ideas about how to coax the most out of this venerable variety. This makes one feel that although Aglianico has had an incredibly long history, the best is yet to come. D Susan Hulme MW is a wine consultant, educator and judge who specialises in Italy

Marisa Cuomo, Costa d'Amalfi Rosso Riserva 2012 90 £25 Campania Food & Wine Blend of 50% Aglianico, 50% Piedirosso. Luigi Moio is the oenologist. Terraced vineyards above the Amalfi coast sit at 300m above sea level. Lively mint, eucalyptus and basil notes sit on top of bright blackberry aromas. Youthful wild-berried fruit, bright and vivacious. Drink 2012-2020 Alc 14% Mustilli, Cesco di Nece, Sant'Agata dei Goti, Sannio 2014 90 N/A UK With sweet spice and blackberry aromas and flavours, this is creamy and long on the palate. Gentle, refined tannins. There’s a charming subtlety and ease to this wine as it flows smoothy across the palate. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 12.5%

Fontana Reale, Morgia Noce, Sannio Riserva 2011 89 N/A UK Organically grown grapes reveal a warm, earthy red berry and spice nose, medium weight and smooth texture with very attractive, raspberry spice flavours , followed by lots of juicy acidity on the finish. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 15% La Guardiense, I Mille Per l'Aglianico, Sannio 2012 89 N/A UK This wine is named for the 1,000 members of the La Guardiense cooperative in Santa Lucia. Notes of red berries and cream are backed by hints of tobacco and sweet liquorice. There’s an impressive depth and concentration of flavour on the palate, which is underpinned by compact tannins. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 14%

D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 85

Fighting a dream climate Sunny Puglia has little trouble producing easy-drinking wines, but producers feel it’s time they were taken more seriously. Simon Woolf is excited by the native varieties and modern winemaking in Italy’s heel ‘IN PORTUGAL THEY add alcohol to make their sweet wines,’ remarks Vinicola Savese’s Massimiliano Pichierri. ‘Here we just add sun.’ And there’s no better summary of Puglia’s essence. Southern Italy’s long, thin, largely flat heel bakes in a hot, dry Mediterranean climate, with its dual coastlines (Adriatic and Ionian) affording the only respite. There is variance from the north down to the heel of the boot, south of Lecce – but only from hot to hotter. Historically, the region’s ability to produce ripe, high-alcohol wines was its trump card, but in more recent years global warming and drought are seriously challenging that view. In particular, 2017 was one of the driest years in living memory, with heatstressed vines reducing yields by a significant 40%-50% for many producers. Still, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt Puglia to slim down a little – total production in 2016 touched nine million hectolitres, or about the same as the whole of Germany. Although the 21st century has seen a significant quality 8 6 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

upgrade, Puglia still produces vast amounts of the world’s bulk wine, along with other grape-related products such as concentrated must and food colouring. The importance of bulk wine is very clear for visitors to Puglia’s more popular wineries. Sfuso pumps, dispensing everyday table wine in refillable plastic containers, are a feature across producers of all sizes and levels. Local customers don’t even glance at the displays of bottled wine or framed international awards – they’re headed straight for the pumps, empty two-litre plastic bottles in hand.

The north Although Puglia’s rise to fame on the international wine market has mostly been down to generously endowed Primitivo and easygoing, spicy Negroamaro, this isn’t the whole story. The cooler, higher-altitude northern region around Castel del Monte harbours a gem that is slowly regaining ground after decades of neglect.


Far left: Nero di Troia grapes in the vineyards at Michele Biancardi Left: 65,000 bottles of Metiusco are handstamped every year at Vinicola Palamà Below: Massimiliano Pichierri takes a sample from a capasone intervention in the cellar. Organically certified Antica Enotria makes a cassis-laden, structured example that takes no prisoners when young, but matures wonderfully. The winery’s Luigi di Tuccio laments that ‘some producers try to change Nero di Troia’s identity to suit the market. It is tannic and high in acidity – it shouldn’t have the roundness of Primitivo.’ Michele Biancardi uses 750-litre Tuscan amphorae and a proportion of dried grapes to make an elegant, silken rendition; while Cantine Carpentiere lets its higher-altitude vines (up to 500m) ripen until mid-October, achieving stunning results.

Photographs: Simon Woolf (3)

Central regions Nero di Troia, also known as Uva di Troia, is a tannic, high-acid variety indigenous to northern Puglia. It was generally written off as a blending partner due to those tannins, but as indigenous varieties have come back into fashion over the past 20 years or so, wineries have increasingly learned how to master it. And thank goodness, because Nero di Troia is a camel in the desert, maturing late and producing well-balanced, fresh wines that rarely exceed 13.5% abv. It’s capable of producing high quality, even classicism, with firm structure, considerable longevity and pretty aromas ranging from sour cherry to blackcurrant and balsamic vinegar. Major producers such as Torrevento and Rivera helped to repopularise Nero di Troia in the 1990s. Their classic, claret-like expressions of the variety, epitomised in Rivera’s Il Falcone or Torrevento’s Ottagono, are a good benchmark. That said, younger, smaller estates are now achieving greater varietal expression via organic agriculture, lower yields and less

‘Nero di Troia is capable of high quality, even classicism, with firm structure, considerable longevity and pretty aromas’

Puglia’s central Gioia del Colle and Adelfia areas harbour two ancient white varieties, Maruggio and Verdeca. Both are making a comeback thanks to producers including Angiuli Donato and L’Archetipo. Maruggio (also known locally as Maresca) has an assertive herbal character, and the distinction of ripening with less than 12% of potential alcohol. Angiuli and L’Archetipo both make delicious sparkling wines from the variety. Gioia del Colle isn’t primarily famous for Maruggio, but rather as one of two top Primitivo sites (the second being Manduria). Primitivo from Gioia del Colle typically achieves more freshness and structure than its southerly neighbours – a very significant advantage when alcohols of 16% or 17% are by no means unusual. Top producers include Angiuli, Chiaromonte, Fatalone, Pietraventosa and Polvanera. Fatalone works biodynamically, with an impressive carbon-neutral winery. Fans of Fatalone’s Primitivo can decide if they share Pasquale Petrera’s belief in music ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 87






therapy (a Rudolf Steiner concept), but whatever tunes or pieces the botti are listening to must be having a positive effect, judging by the quality of the wines. Fatalone was the first to bottle a 100% Primitivo under the Gioia del Colle DOC, back in 1987.

Southeast Heading down into Italy’s heel, Manduria holds the most famous Primitivo DOC, also boasting one of only four DOCGs in the region: Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale, a high-alcohol, late-harvested nectar that can be quite divine. Gianfranco Fino, Giuseppe Attanasio and Vinicola Savese are three of the area’s most established names. Savese, described as ‘the last of the old guard’ by Ole Udsen, a Danish expert on the region, still matures some wines in capasoni – small Puglianese amphorae holding about 250 litres each. The results are excellent, with freshness, fruit definition and balance that belie the prodigious degrees of alcohol. There is something almost perverse about an early-ripening, high-alcohol variety like Primitivo becoming so ubiquitous in a hot, dry region. The variety didn’t originate in Puglia, most likely crossing the Adriatic from Dalmatia some 250 years ago, yet it is now written into the area’s DNA. Low yields and dry farming can help to maintain freshness, balance and complexity in wines that can easily become overblown – thus older bushtrained vineyards with deep roots are becoming highly desirable. Sadly there are precious few remaining – EU grubbing-up programmes and thoughtless DOC legislation provided no incentive for growers to cherish them. Australian winemaker Lisa Gilbee relocated to the area with her Italian partner in 2000, creating her Morella estate almost on impulse. ‘We found these amazing old alberello-trained vines and

‘In the past

Above: Gianfranco Fino inspects his vines

10 years

knew we had to get the wine into a bottle,’ she says. Although there are now rumours of an impending DOC for bush-trained Primitivo, she fears it’s come too late: ‘In the past 10 years we’ve lost about 80% of the old alberellotrained vineyards around here.’

we’ve lost about 80% of the old alberellotrained vineyards around here’ Lisa Gilbee (below)

Far south Southerly Salento, around the city of Lecce, is Negroamaro’s preferred territory. Although the name of the grape is translated literally as ‘black bitter’, most mainstream producers churn out soft, easygoing examples that can be rather flabby. Over-oaking is a common problem, but Cupertinum – one of Salento’s oldest and largest cooperatives – sets a shining example with its Copertino Riserva aged only in cement vats, which is quite delicious. Puglia doesn’t excel with white wine – most of the region is too hot to achieve sufficient freshness without resorting to some trickery in the winery. Grape varieties Fiano, Falanghina and Greco are popular, although none is native to the region. Cantina Coppola, based just outside Gallipoli, is pioneering a ‘blanc de noirs’ style made from Negroamaro. The results can seem simplistic in youth, but achieve real interest given a few years in bottle. Alongside Maruggio and Verdeca, other native white varieties are experiencing a revival. Minutolo (sometimes confusingly known as Fiano Minutolo, although there is ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 8 9


actually no genetic relationship with Fiano) is an aromatic variety championed by an increasing number of wineries in the north. Puglia has its work cut out if it wants to convince the world that it can deliver more than truckloads of easygoing fruitbombs, yet there are exciting undercurrents bubbling in every corner. Renewed interest in dry-farming and ancient varieties is already creating new quality levels and styles, and there’s a welcome trend spurning barriques in favour of more neutral botti, concrete or terracotta. Earlier harvesting, or refocusing on later ripening varieties is surely key. ‘Just add sun’ might once have been the rallying call, but ‘not too much’ ought to be the refrain. D

Right: Negroamaro grapes are grown in southern Salento

Simon Woolf is an award-winning freelance wine writer who also publishes www.

A taste of modern Puglia: Woolf’s 10 wines to try Angiuli Donato, Maccone Spumante Metodo Ancestrale Brut NV 92 £19.60 Tannico 100% Maruggio. Basically a col fondo, with a natural second fermentation in the bottle. Concentrated apricot fruit, with hints of melon and fresh herbs. Thrillingly complex, toasty and lively. Drink 2018-2021 Alcohol 12.5%

Photograph: Ferruccio Carassale/4Corners Images

Morella, Mezzogiorno Bianco 2016 91 £19.75 Berry Bros & Rudd Fiano picked early and fermented spontaneously in a cement egg. Ripe honeydew melon with a hint of almond. Bone-dry on the finish – not something to take for granted with this variety. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 12.5% Cantine Carpentiere, Pietra dei Lupa Nero di Troia, Castel del Monte 2014 95 £16 (2011) Worth Bros This boasts a very pretty, floral nose with subtle red berry fruit and ripe but crunchy tannins. Late-harvested, resulting in a softer, more accessible style. Aged in 750-litre barrels. Quite charming. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5% Morella, La Signora 2014 95 £42-£43 AG Wines, Berry Bros & Rudd If you doubted that Primitivo could be elegant and almost feminine, try this. Flavours of black cherry and cranberry

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fruit are infused with fresh tobacco and eucalyptus, with a long silken finish. Manduria DOC but declassified to IGP, as Australian winemaker Lisa Gilbee feels ‘no empathy with the DOC’. Drink 2018-2029 Alc 14.5% Fatalone, Primitivo, Gioia del Colle 2015 93 £13.60-£15.49 (2013) Buon Vino, Exel, Fine Wine to Me, Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Green, Philip Pruden

This subtle fig, sour cherry and dried herb-infused Primitivo, with hints of cacao and tar, shows that greatness can be achieved with no oak at all. Balanced and fresh, even at this high level of alcohol. An organically produced wine. Drink 2018-2025 Alc 15% Michele Biancardi, Anima di Nero 2014 93 £14.49 Winescape 20% of the Nero di Troia grapes used in this wine were dried on the vine (passimento), softening the variety’s prodigious tannins to a velvety, supple texture. Earthy, baked plum aromas and very pure fruit. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13% Antica Enotria, Rosso, Puglia 2015 92 £9.50-£10.99 Exel, Les Caves de Pyrene, Noble Green

Green pepper, balsamic aromas and herbaceous fruit lift this unoaked blend of Nero di Troia, Montelpulciano and Sangiovese. Bone-dry with an appealing

nuttiness on the finish. Organically produced. Drink 2018-2029 Alc 13% Rivera, Puer Apuliae, Castel del Monte 2012 92 £37.48 Mondial Rivera’s reputation with Nero di Troia was built on the blend Il Falcone, but this barriqueaged 100% Nero di Troia is a tighter and more focused wine, showing peppery blackcurrant fruit and dense structure. Built for the long haul, but it’s just about approachable now. Drink 2019-2031 Alc 14% Valentina Passalacqua, Terra Sasso 2015 90 £15.95 (2014) Eton Vintners From a young biodynamic winery in the northeasterly Gargano foothills, this unoaked Negroamaro-Primitivo blend has plush plum and raspberry fruit and an invitingly ripe, if Porty nose. The winery itself is also well worth a visit if you’re touring around the region. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13.5%

Palamà, Metiusco, Salento Rosso 2016 89 £16.11 Tannico ‘In this hot climate, you need wine you can actually drink, not just taste,’ says Michele Palamà, and he has achieved that to perfection here. Soft, spicy fruit with a saline freshness and touches of bramble. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14%


Torre Mora One of Etna’s finest estates


orre Mora is one of the specialist estates belonging to Tenute Piccini, a Tuscan company owned by the eponymous family that has been committed to the wine industry for four generations and which is today one of the most distinctive, dynamic and innovative in Italy. Mount Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano, in almost in a constant state of activity. The volcanic soil, the influence of the sea, the predominance of ungrafted old vines and the alberello bush vine training system create the perfect terroir for unique wines. Inspired by his passion for terroir driven wines, Mario Piccini decided to invest in Torre Mora boutique winery to craft high quality wines. Watchwords are elegance rather than power, big barrel botti rather than small barriques, and the enhancement of Nerello Mascalese flavours and aromas in relation to its territory of origin. Mario Piccini says: “I have always been enthralled by the uniqueness and complexity of this heroic viticultural reality. We are glad to be part of the Etna wine renaissance.” There is a perfect match between the Etna Contrade, small subzones within the Etna wine region, and the two flagship native grape varieties: Nerello Mascalese for the reds, and Carricante for the whites. Each contrada has its own microclimate and lava composition, and even the colour of the lava varies in different vineyards.

grapes, and respect for the local culture and traditional methods. The two Torre Mora vineyards are located at about 650-700m in Contrada Rovitello, in the municipality of Castiglione di Sicilia and Contrada Torre, in the municipality of Linguaglossa. The average age of the vines is around 15 years. Cordon-spur training is used in the small flat land areas and albarello (bushvines) on the terraces.

Winemaking The Nerello grapes are hand-picked in October, they are then immediately destemmed and transferred to steel vats for a 24-hour cold prefermentation maceration to increase their aromatic profile and colour intensity. Once both the alcoholic and malolactic fermentations have finished, the wine is ready to age in oak casks for 18 - 24 months.

Above: Mario Piccini, fourth generation of the Piccini family

Climate & Vineyards Mount Etna has its own special microclimate, much cooler than the rest of Sicily. The winters are very cold and the summers hot. Significant temperature variations from day to night, combined with the dry summer winds, allow the grapes to ripen slowly, preserving complex flavours and aromas. Conversion to organic growing started in 2014 and the focus is on keeping the vines healthy and strong, able to withstand pests and feed themselves naturally. Torre Mora’s philosophy is closely linked to sustainable viticulture, quality of the

Scalunera 2012 Decanter Silver DWWA 2016 - 94 points “Complex and slightly developed with tamarind, raspberry jam, tobacco and coffee. Similar to a ripe Nebbiolo with rose hips, cherries and tar. Good concentration, grippy tannins and great potential.”


Top-tier Prosecco

Producers have the option to label their top Prosecco with a village of origin, but are these ‘rive’ wines always a guarantee of quality? Richard Baudains finds out SINCE 2009, PRODUCERS of Prosecco di ConeglianoValdobbiadene Superiore – the top-drawer DOCG Prosecco from the hills – have had the option of declaring the village of origin of their wines with the phrase ‘Rive di’. Every village which conforms to the basic wine-growing standards of the DOCG zone (there are 43) can claim its sub-denomination. In the highly democratic division of the area devised by the producers’ consorzio, all rive appear equal, but some might be more equal than others. Are the rive always a guarantee of top quality? And do they really

reflect a special sense of place? The answer to the first question is ‘yes and no’. Producers who use the rive denomination tend to reserve it for their top label, which means that you should be getting a Prosecco made with special care and attention from their best grapes. Some of these rive wines can be spectacularly, eye-openingly good. The overall quality, however, is not particularly homogeneous: alongside wines with very distinctive personality there are others which are perfectly well made, but little more. As for terroir character, the

Andreola, Mas de Fer, Rive di Soligo Extra Dry 2016 95 £12.60 Tannico

Astoria, Casa Vittorino, Rive di Refrantolo Brut 2016 95 £11.95 Albion Wine Shippers, Gerrard Seel

Herby, floral nose; light, progressive palate with a lovely delicate airy texture and intense flavours on the finish of grapefruit peel, apple and almonds. Very refined, from high-altitude vineyards. Drink 2018-2019 Alcohol 11.5%

Almond milk on the nose. Light and elegant with super-fine bubbles on the palate. Lovely balance and a long finish of marzipan and apricot, with a hint of mineral savouriness. Very stylish. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

La Vigna di Sarah, Rive di Cozzuolo Extra Dry 2016 95 N/A UK

Roccat, Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza Extra Dry 2016 95 N/A UK

Spagnol, Col del Sas, Rive di Solighetto Brut 2016 95 £13.04 Tannico

Biscuity tones on the nose, followed by ripe fig and sultana, and a touch of sweet spiciness. Great volume on the palate with a long, complex finish of dried fruit and cardamom. Complex. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

Lots of ripe fruit on the nose from a warm, dry vintage, with bitter-sweet floral aromas at the back. Peach and marzipan notes on the palate and a long, concentrated fruit finish. Delicious. Drink 2018 Alc 11.5%

Fresh citrus and apricot nose with a touch of Parma violets. Very fine bubbles, great progression on the palate and a long, crisp finish of lemon peel and salted almonds. Classic. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

Angelo Rebuli, La Riva, Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza Brut 2016 94 N/A UK

La Farra, Rive di Farra di Soligo Extra Dry 2016 94 £15 H2Vin

La Tordera, Tittoni, Rive di Vidor Dry 2016 94 N/A UK

Subtle floral, hedgerow nose, with classic notes of wisteria and sugared almonds. Light and fruity on the palate, with finely judged balance and a fresh finish of tangerine and sweet spice. Stylish. Drink 2018 Alc 11.5%

Almond and violet aromas on the nose. Concentrated, ripe fruit palate with fresh acidity to balance the sugars and spicy complexity on the finish. Bags of personality. Drink 2018 Alc 11.5%

Ripe pear and almonds on the nose. Lovely creamy texture on the palate with a tangy vein of salted lemons and a long, dry, floral finish. Classy. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5% 92 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Bortolomiol, Cuvée del Fondatore Motus Vitae, Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza Brut 2015 95 N/A UK Pie crust on the nose, with fennel, citrus and tropical hints. Light texture but concentrated flavours. Great example of the maturer style of Prosecco. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

PROSECCO diversity of growing conditions within the DOCG zone is evident, but it is difficult to pin down corresponding differences between wines at village level.

In search of style A tentative shot at characterising the most widely exploited and most interesting rive could pick out San Pietro di Barbozza for freshness and refined elegance; Ogliano for its ripe, yellow fruit; Guia for a certain tangy, mineral quality; and Santo Stefano for its firm, fresh zip. The problem is that there is not a lot of evidence to go on. In a tasting of 58 rive wines I did in October 2017 there were 28 different sub-denominations, most of which were represented by only one or two examples. In some respects the rive are at the cutting edge. The newly recognised extra brut (less than 6g/l of sugar) and brut nature (less than 3g/l) categories are being enthusiastically taken up by producers, and rive wines in

particular showcase the trend. In my recent tasting, two-thirds of the wines were in varying shades of brut, while only a small minority were in the traditional extra-dry style. The drinking window of quality Prosecco is widening and rive wines, which are obliged to declare their vintage, again highlight the trend. I tasted excellent rive from 2015 and even 2014. Rive selections represent a drop in the ocean of the 83 million bottles of Prosecco Superiore produced in 2016 – but it is a still a significant one, with 1.9m bottles. In terms of quality, they are not the only guide to the crème de la crème. Many top producers, from small independent growers such as Silvano Follador or Cà dei Zago, to leading houses such as Bisol and Ruggeri, do not use village names for their prestige selections. But the good news is that quality producers who do are currently making some of Prosecco’s most interesting wines.

Richard Baudains is the DWWA Regional Chair for Veneto and has written about Italian wine for Decanter since 1989 These are the best of 58 wines from a tasting organised by the Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene in October 2017. All are Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene unless otherwise specified

Le Colture, Gerardo, Rive di Santo Stefano Brut 2015 94 N/A UK

Sommariva, Rive di San Michele Extra Dry 2016 94 POA Vinarius

Tanorè, Rive di Guia Brut 2014

Delicate floral and green apple aromas on the nose, followed by a fresh, crisp, tasty palate with firm structure, very attractive grapey character and a bone-dry finish. A great food wine. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

Bitter almonds and acacia notes on the nose. Crisp fruit on the palate with fresh underlying acidity and a grapey finish that shows a touch of grassiness. Relatively dry for the category. Drink 2018 Alc 11.5%

Shortcrust pastry and baked pear aromas on the nose. Great freshness, with a lovely creamy texture on the palate; long and unwaveringly dry on the finish. Still full of energy. Drink 2018 Alc 11.5%

Val d’Oca, Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza Brut 2016 94 £13.69 Vinatis

Angelo Bortolin, Sommaval, Rive di Guia Brut 2016 93 £21.95 Jeroboams

Delicately aromatic floral, herby nose with hints of lilac and mint. Fine bubbles, with apricot, white melon and amaretti biscuit on the palate. Light dry finish. Another classic. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

Starts yeasty on the nose, then aromas of stewed apple, pears and violets emerge. There’s lots of volume on the palate, then it’s light and zingy on the finish with a distinctly salty note. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%

Cantine Maschio, Maschio dei Cavalieri, Rive di Colbertaldo Brut 2016 93 £10.74 The Drink Shop

Adami, Col Credas, Rive di Farra di Soligo Brut 2016 90 £19 Astrum, Field & Fawcett, The Halifax Wine Co,

La Masottina, Rive di Ogliano Extra Dry 2016 90 £19 (2015) Christopher Keller


Yellow fruit and herbs on the nose with a touch of almonds. Soft and round on the palate with tropical fruit and candied peel in the middle and a pleasant lemony note on the finish. Drink 2018 Alc 11.5%

A nose of wisteria and green pears. Big expansion on the palate and a bone-dry, slightly austere follow-through to a salty finish. Serious. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5%



Bread crust nose. Round and soft with low pressure from the bubbles on the palate, but lots of concentration and a long fruity, herbal finish. Original. Drink 2018 Alc 11.5%

Merotto, Cuvée del Fondatore Graziano Merotto, Rive di Col San Martino Brut 2016 90 £18.13 GP Brands Rich, complex nose with ripe pear and herbs. Breadth and grapey concentration on the palate, with texture from long lees ageing. No hurry to drink. Drink 2018-2019 Alc 11.5% D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 93

Working together

Photograph: Franco Cogoli/4Corners Images

Italy’s cooperative wineries may lack the glamour of its single estates, but they offer a wealth of riches for savvy wine lovers. Simon Reilly highlights the names you need to know FOR THOSE FREQUENTING the trendy wine bars of east London and Paris searching for their next Instagram post of the latest small-batch, sulphur-free, wax-sealed natural wine made by a bearded winemaker in a shed in the Jura, Italian cooperatives may hold little interest. For the rest of us, there is real value and quality to be enjoyed. Italy’s cooperative movement, or cantina sociale, is as strong as in any wine-growing country in Europe. Producing more than 60% of Italy’s wines, co-ops represent a vital part of the national wine industry and, happily for the wine lover, offer myriad wines of fantastic value and quality. Yet, with so much made, as ever, it pays to pick the right producer. Physical geography has created five clear hotspots in Italy’s cooperative landscape where there is a greater emphasis on quality. In northern Italy, the Alps, the Dolomites and the occasional lake make wine production a challenge. Historically this has encouraged wine-growers in these areas to work together. As a result, the cooperatives of Piedmont, Veneto and Alto Adige are worth seeking out. Further south, beacons of quality are harder to find, until you get on a boat and sail to the islands. On both Sicily and Sardinia the co-ops are dominant in terms of volume, but there is real quality to be found too.

Piedmont Piedmont is home to the king of all Italian cooperatives, the Produttori del Barbaresco. With 54 farmers providing fruit, it controls 9 4 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

105ha of the 700ha in the Barbaresco DOCG. From the entry-level Langhe Nebbiolo, through the blended Barbaresco, to the nine single-cru wines made only in the best vintages, the quality and value of the Nebbiolo this cooperative produces is hard to beat. Aldo Vacca runs the winery alongside a board, elected from their 54 farmers, who together with the winemaker shape the winemaking decisions – including whether the single crus should be bottled. According to Vacca: ‘Sometimes it’s a no-brainer, sometimes it requires a little more thinking.’ This is usually done in the spring after the harvest, when the board members taste the wines before they go into barrel. The wines are approachable when young, but have the ability to age for decades, gaining in complexity. A recent tasting of the 2007, 2008 and 2010 vintages of the straight Barbaresco highlighted the consistency and complexity of the wines. Rather than blurring into variations on a winemaking style, each wine is a window through which one can gaze into the specific vintage conditions and pick out the subtle characteristics of the Barbaresco terroir. This is down to Vacca’s winemaking philosophy, which he describes as: ‘Minimal manipulation, long maceration and long ageing in used oak barrels’. A lesser-known cooperative gem not be missed is the Cantina del Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema, whose 16ha of pergola-trained vines on the edge of the Italian Alps produce some of the most elegant yet concentrated

Right: Cantina Terlano in Alto Adige has a focus on long-aged wines


Above: Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco – ‘the king of all Italian cooperatives’ in Piedmont Nebbiolo in Piedmont. The black-labelled standard bottling is Carema’s Volnay; elegant, fine, light but full of the flavours of orange peel, raspberry and sour cherries. The white-labelled riserva is more serious; Carema’s Nuits-St-George, with its fullerbodied dark cherry and leather flavours. Beyond Nebbiolo, Gavi’s Produttori del Gavi is worth seeking out. With over 150ha of vines and more than 100 members, the winemaking team of winemaker Andrea Pancotti and consultant Mario Redoglia succeed in making consistently good-value wines of interest and complexity from the Cortese grape.

Veneto The focus of cooperatives in Veneto is Soave and Valpolicella. In the Soave region in particular, cooperatives have been blamed for a glut of mass-produced, bland wine made with an eye on commercial volumes rather than quality. Basic economics are the only way to buck this trend, according to seasoned cooperative winemaking consultant Matt Thomson. New Zealander Thomson has worked more than 25 consecutive vintages in Europe, advising cooperatives including Cantina di Monteforte in Soave and Cantina Valpantena in Valpolicella. ‘Unless you award growers for producing better quality fruit, it just becomes a commodity,’ says Thomson. His formula for success is simple: offer a higher rate for better fruit. ‘It all starts with incentivising them to produce the best fruit possible,’ he says. ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 95

Another common weakness of the co-op model, according to Thomson, is a tendency to throw all the grapes into the pot to produce a small number of blended wines. Efforts made by quality-driven growers to produce good fruit are consequently washed away by blending it with weaker fruit. At Cantina di Monteforte, he instead makes two individual DOCG Soave Classico Superiores – Vigneto Montegrande and Terre di Monteforte – from the best fruit. These wines, both priced at under £10 in the UK, offer a level of quality and character rarely seen at this price point. Another Veneto producer who has been making single-vineyard cuvées for many years is Daniele Accordini of Cantina de Negrar. The excellent single-vineyard Valpolicellas and superior Amarones are widely available, good value and well worth exploring.

Alto Adige Alto Adige is perhaps the most renowned region in Italy for quality-focused co-ops. One of the finest in the region is the Cantina Terlano. It has invested heavily in infrastructure, which allows it to store its

wines – often for many years – before release. At the top end, this ability to age is shown off in the company’s Rarities range. Only 3,330 bottles of each rarity wine are released after the wine has spent 12 months in oak barrels and then many years maturing in steel tanks. Wines are bottled only when the winemaker feels they have achieved the right level of balance. The most recent of these releases was a 2004 Pinot Bianco. The most traditional of Cantina Terlano’s cuvées is the Terlaner; a blend of Pinot Bianco,

Above: Cantina di Negrar produces single-vineyard wines

Photograph: Jim Tannock

Cooperatives hitting the premium trail Cooperatives have historically been known for making mass-produced wines at the value end of the wine market. Increasingly, however, this is starting to change. Many of Italy’s largest cooperatives have added a premium range to their portfolio. In most cases – rather than being just a marketing ploy to generate additional revenue from the same wines – some outstanding wines are being made, often at an attractive quality and price point. In Soave, the Cantina di Soave, which has over 6,000ha of vineyards in Soave, Amarone and Valpolicella, has created the premium Rocca Sveva range. Described by the Cantina as ‘a winery within a winery’, it consists of a range of excellent wines from the best plots within the estate. Alongside some distinctive examples of Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone, one of the highlights of the Rocca Sveva range is the Mida Recioto di Soave. Mida is a sweet wine made from partially botrytised Garganega, giving it a rich orange peel and caramel flavour, backed by refreshing acidity.

9 6 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Also in Veneto, Cantina di Negrar has created the Domini Veneti range. This started as a ‘quality project’ in 1989, when the Cantina worked with its growers to identify the locations within their estates that were best suited to producing quality Valpolicella and Amarone wines. Working with the growers, it now produces a range of cru wines using fruit from these plots. Over in Piedmont, the Produttori del Below: the barrel room at Cantina di Soave

Barbaresco has produced high-end single-vineyard cru wines in the best vintages for many years. Its unnerving focus on producing high-quality, terroir-driven wines only from Nebbiolo has made it a leading light in the Barbaresco denomination. In neighbouring Barolo, the Terre del Barolo cooperative cannot make such a claim, historically making wines which failed to reach the highs achieved by the


Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that it has produced since the winery was founded in 1893. It is a consistently excellent, beautifully textured and complex wine that is very much the benchmark for the winery.

Sicily and Sardinia Both Sicily and Sardinia are dominated by giant co-ops, such as Sicily’s largest, Cantine Settesoli, which controls about 5% of the island’s vineyard area, some 6,000ha. Most of the wine made by these giants is mass-produced, some of it

Above: Matt Thomson, winemaking consultant

exported in bulk. For real quality, the smaller, more focused producers need to be sought out. On Sicily, Centopassi is the star. Not only does it make excellent, high-altitude wine, but it does so with grapes grown on land once owned by the Sicilian mafia. In 1996 the Rognoni-La Torre Law (named after the outspoken anti-Mafia activist Pio La Torre) was introduced, allowing the confiscated land to be returned to its original use. An organisation called Libera Terra (‘freed land’) was created to manage confiscated Mafia land across Sicily. Centopassi is the winemaking entity of Libera Terra, making a range of high-quality organic wines grown with largely indigenous grapes on high (500m-950m), rocky vineyards in the Alto Belice Corleonese region of Sicily, near Palermo. In Sardinia, the Cantina di Mogoro, since it began in 1956, has actively promoted the indigenous varieties of Sardinia; rarely seen elsewhere, these include Bovale, Cannonau, Monica and Semidano. Its two Semidano expressions (Anastasía and Puistéris) are both unique, high-quality interpretations, and the co-op also brings to life the often forgotten ➢

Above: Terre Barolo produces the ArnaldoRivera premium range Left: Cantina di Mogoro more illustrious estates in the Barolo region. This may be about to change with its ArnaldoRivera brand, a premium range launched in 2017 with wines from the much-lauded 2013 vintage. Named after the founder of the Terre de Barolo cooperative, the wines are sourced from some of the most prestigious vineyards in the Barolo DOCG. Initial indications are very positive, and the ArnaldoRivera

wines appear to be a real step up in quality from the Terre del Barolo wines. Definitely a brand to watch. In Alto Adige, the largest cooperative in the region, Cavit, has sought to highlight the quality of some of the best terroirs within its estate through its premium Maso range. The Maso wines are all still wines sourced from the best vineyards in the estate, the aim being to produce terroir-

driven wines at a cru level of quality. However, it is Cavit’s premium sparkling wines which attract the most attention. The Altemasi Trento DOC range features five premium sparkling wines from vineyards at altitudes of up to 600m. The standout wine of this range is the Riserva Graal, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from some of the highest vineyards in Trentino.

D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2018 | 97


grape Monica, in its San Bernardino cuvée, by adding a small amount of Bovale. So if you look in the right place, Italy’s co-ops can provide wines of real interest. Whether it is minimal intervention, rare

indigenous varieties, single-vineyard cuvées or long-aged rarities that rock your boat, it shouldn’t be too long before Italian cooperatives start popping up on your Instagram feed. D

Simon Reilly is a London-based wine writer who publishes

Reilly’s dozen: best of the Italian co-ops Centopassi, Rocca di Pietra Longa Grillo, Sicily 2015 94 £16 Astrum, Bottle Apostle, Field & Fawcett, Planet of the Grapes, The 10 Cases

100% Grillo, a grape usually used to make marsala. Floral, peachy aromas and a Chablislike minerality, finishing with an apple-tinged saline bite. It’s remarkable what altitude can do. Drink 2018-2025 Alcohol 13% Cantina Terlan, Terlaner, Alto Adige 2016 93 £17-£19.90 Widely available via UK agent Astrum Wine Cellars

Always impressive and richly textured. Stone fruits and bitter orange aromas lead to a grapefruit palate and tingly, salty minerals on the Aperol Spritz-like finish. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 13.5% Cantina Bolzano, Pinot Bianco, South Tyrol, Alto Adige 2016 91 £12.05-£16.71 Mondial, Stannary St Wine Co

Essence of tinned mandarin oranges. A lovely oily texture and floral stone fruits wash through the palate. A tang of grapefruit and white pepper on the long finish tops it off. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13%

Cantina di Soave, Rocca Sveva Castelcerino, Soave Classico Superiore, Veneto 2015 89 £13.95 Vinissimo Slightly reticent nose but then full of the flavours of stone fruits and honey. Lovely mouthfeel and the concentration is impressive. A step up from the dull, watery stuff one often associates with Soave. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 13% Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema, Carema Riserva, Piedmont 2013 94 £25 AG Wines, Astrum, Field & Delicious, but dark and broody at the moment: one for the long haul. Sweet, dark cherry fuits and leather tangle with bracing acidity and soft, refined tannins. Llightness and freshness make for a very special wine. Drink 2018-2030 Alc 13% Mezzacorona, Castel Firmian, Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva, Alto Adige 2013 92 £8.25 The Wine Society A revelation from this giant co-op. Tart, crunchy, red berry and cherry fruit sits alongside notes of minerals and flowers. Lovely grainy tannins on the finish which has flavours of cherry and marzipan, slapped in the face with tangy acidity. Brilliant stuff. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 13% Produttori del Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Piedmont 2015 92 £19.50-£23 Astrum, Field & Fawcett,

agent Astrum Wine Cellars

Handford, Harvey Nichols, Planet of the

98 | I t a l y 2018 • D E C A N T E R

Whitmore & White

This intoxicating Middle Eastern-style wine has aromatic, spiced, dried fruit flavours emanating from the glass that make you shut your eyes and think of that 1980s Turkish Delight advert as you sniff. Notes of dates, tobacco and spice; full of Eastern promise. Drink 2018-2024 Alc 14%

Fawcett, The Crouch End Cellars

Produttori del Gavi, Etichetta Nera Gavi del Commune di Gavi, Piedmont 2016 91 £13.50 Widely available via UK This 100% Cortese has spiced pears and pepper aromas leading to salty minerals and crunchy apple on the waxy palate. Finishes with a kick of lime. Hard to fault at this price. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 12%

Cantina Valpantena, Torre del Falasco, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Veneto 2014 90 £13.20-£14.99 Exel, Liberty,

Grapes, Seven Cellars, WoodWinters

Aromas of flowers and cherries engulf the nostrils. Very feminine, almost light on its feet despite the alcohol level. On the palate, the red floral fruit gives way to a wall of soft tannins and a powdery cocoa finish. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 14.5%

Cantina Oliena, Corrasi Cannonau Riserva, Sardinia 2008 89 £24.95 Vinissimo The local Grenache grape is true to form, with herby berry fruit aromas, then full-bodied, sweet, warm fruit and cinnamon flavours. The tannins have melted with age but are still prominent on the long, sour and spicy finish. Well balanced, despite its high alcohol. Drink 2018-2023 Alc 15% Cantina di Mogoro, San Bernardino Monica, Sardinia 2012 88 £12.25 Vinissimo Monica is often a rather humble variety by reputation, but this cuvée is blended with 15% of Bovale, which combines to create a delicious red berry fruit mouthful that explodes onto the tongue. Drink 2018-2022 Alc 13% Feudo Arancia, The Society’s Reserve Red, Sicily 2013 87 £8.25 The Wine Society Made from Nero d’Avola sourced from Ragusa and Agrigento. Rich with plum and red berry fruits, this is soft, uncomplicated and comforting. In Italy they’d call it a ‘salami wine’ and I think that it would work well with a barbecue too. Drink 2018-2020 Alc 13.5%

IT’S JUST BEFORE noon and Roberto Bava, CEO of Giulio Cocchi and president of the newly formed Vermouth di Torino Institute, fixes me a drink. He pours equal parts vermouth and soda over ice, topping it with a twist of lemon. ‘The bubbles help bring out the aromas,’ says Bava of this concoction, known in Italy as a vermuttino. Nuances of rhubarb, ginger, liquorice and citrus emerge one by one, none dominating, and an inherent bitterness is curbed by integrated sweetness. I realise I’m suddenly hungry, just as Bava offers some Parmigiano-Reggiano. ‘Vermouth is wine,’ he continues. ‘It goes with chocolate and cheese.’ The umami flavours of Parmigiano are remarkably complementary with the drink’s herbal notes. Nevertheless, vermouth is largely considered a cocktail ingredient rather than a gastronomic partner, and its role in the Negroni has been fundamental in salvaging its heritage. An aromatised fortified wine, vermouth has its roots in ancient civilisations who commonly infused botanicals in their wines. Wormwood, a powerfully scented and intensely bitter plant of the Artemisia genus, became particularly popular as a cure for stomach ailments. ‘Wormwood gave its name to vermouth through its German translation, Wermut,’ explains Bava. As examples improved, vermouth transformed from a medicinal tonic into a beverage of pleasure. Italy’s Piedmont and France’s Savoie regions were the heart of production. The Alpine terrain is rich in wormwood and other botanicals like mint, sage and camomile. Savvy apothecaries blended these with exotic spices from afar. In 1786 Antonio Benedetto Carpano created a superior elixir, based on Moscato Bianco. It was introduced to the Duke of Savoy and became the drink of the royal court. Vermouth was also adopted by the chic cafés of Turin, cementing its role as Italy’s classic aperitivo. Until World War II, vermouth was widely consumed, admired and traded. Then fascinating new drinks from faraway places lured young Italians away from vermouth. ‘Being a small artisanal producer we simply couldn’t compete with low-end products,’ explains Bava, who discontinued vermouth production when he joined the family business in the 1980s. Others followed suit.

Cocktail chic Instead of this being the final chapter for vermouth, America’s contemporary cocktail culture gave it a new lease of life. Bartenders and cocktail writers such David Wondrich and 10 0 | I t a l y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

An aperitif for anytime Currently enjoying a revival thanks to cocktail culture, Vermouth di Torino has fought to establish its quality credentials. Michaela Morris reports

Ted Haigh spawned a renaissance for classics like the Americano, Manhattan, Martinez and above all the Negroni – the judiciously stirred mix of gin, Campari and sweet red vermouth over ice, finished with a curl of fresh orange peel – rekindling a desire for superior and historical products. Vermouth suddenly became cool again.

Above: Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino was relaunched in 2011 for the company’s 120th anniversary


Encouraged by this renewed interest, producers have been reviving original recipes. Bava led the way, launching Storico Vermouth for Cocchi’s 120th anniversary in 2011. Then renowned Barolo producer Pio Cesare resuscitated its family recipe, which hadn’t been made since the 1950s, and Martini released two new speciality vermouths in 2015. The revival even resurrected Chazalettes, which had shut down in the 1970s.

The real deal ‘Now it’s popular, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon,’ states Bava. But not all bottles touting vermouth are created equally. Some do not even use wormwood, the plant which defines vermouth. ‘It’s like making limoncello without lemons,’ decries Bava. ‘It is fake.’ Furthermore, other producers with no connection to Piedmont have deceptively labelled their wares Vermouth di Torino. While this has been a geographical denomination since 1991, no regulatory body nor laws defining its production parameters existed to protect Vermouth di Torino. The Vermouth di Torino Institute was formed for these very reasons. An alliance of 15 brands – Bèrto, Bordiga, Carlo Alberto, Carpano, Chazalettes, Cinzano, Del Professore, Drapò, Gancia, Giulio Cocchi, La Canellese, Martini & Rossi, Sperone, Torino Distillati and Tosti – came together to draft the regulations. ‘Big producers and small, we worked together with the same goal of saving an appellation that belongs to Italy,’ says Bava.

Above: Roberto Bava, CEO of Giulio Cocchi and founding member of the Vermouth di Torino Institute

‘Vermouth transformed from a medicinal tonic into a beverage of pleasure’

The outcome was Law 1826, established on 22 March 2017. It defines Vermouth di Torino as ‘an aromatised wine obtained in Piedmont using Italian wine only, with the addition of alcohol, flavoured mainly with Artemisia from Piedmont together with other herbs and spices.’ While the alcohol can range from 16% to 22%, a superiore category requires 17% or higher. Furthermore, a minimum of 50% of the base wine and three of the herbs must come from Piedmont for superiore. ‘Generic vermouth will still exist,’ explains Bava, ‘but it will be a quality pyramid with Vermouth di Torino as a premium category.’ Diverse styles are represented by an array of colours and sweetness levels. They all have their place in cocktails, but are equally enjoyable on their own, chilled or over ice. Whereas a rosso is best served at 16°C, its progressively paler-hued siblings rosato, ambrato and bianco are ideal at 14°C-12°C. In general, Vermouth di Torino is traditionally sweeter than its French counterparts, though varying levels of sugar are indicated by classification as extra secco (less than 30g/l sugar), secco (less than 50g/litre) and dolce (sugar equal to or exceeding 130g/litre). Above all, Vermouth di Torino is an aperitif with a long and noble tradition of stimulating the appetite, as well as great conversation. And, according to Bava at least, this is appropriate ‘anytime’. D Michaela Morris is a Canadian wine writer, educator and presenter who specialises in Italy

Morris picks her five favourite vermouths Carpano, Antica Formula Vermouth 96 £14-£21/37.5cl-£39 Harvey

a deftly balanced vermouth. Flavours of rhubarb, sarsaparilla and cherry bark lead to a minty, peppery finish. Alc 16%

Nichols, Master of Malt, Ocado, Theatre of Wine

A sweet, rich vermouth infused with vanilla, this is sumptuously textured and offers enticing notes of raisin, macerated orange, tea, carob and nutmeg. Finishes with balancing bitterness and fennel. Alcohol 16.5% Cocchi, Dopo Teatro Amaro, Vermouth di Torino 95 £28-£29 Master of Malt, Twenty One A higher proportion of bittering cinchona is offset by additional sugar for

Pio Cesare, Vermouth di Torino 95 £39.99 Cambridge Wine, Davy’s, Handford, Portland Wine Co, The Whisky Exchange

Chardonnay, Moscato Bianco macerated with more than 25 botanicals and sweetened with burnt sugar. Candied orange, cinnamon and vanilla redolent of panettone; balsamic tarragon and polished wood nuances. Alc 16% Contratto, Vermouth Rosso 94 £15/37.5cl-£19.20 Harvey Nichols, Hedonism

An historic artisanal vermouth revived in

2012. Earthy liquorice root lifted by citrus peel. Concentrated, smooth and mildly bitter with integrated notes of Mediterranean herbs, grapefruit, cardamom and bay laurel. Alc 17% Martini, Riserva Speciale Ambrato, Vermouth di Torino 93 £14.30-£18 Harvey Nichols, Hedonism

Based on Moscato Bianco from the Asti DOCG. Intense herbal notes and heather with undertones of lemon, cinnamon stick, peach and camomile culminate in an assertive bitter bite. Alc 18%

D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2 018 | 101


Bolgheri wineries




Ornellaia Mulini di Segalari Podere Castellaccio Podere Sapaio Campo alle Comete

7 A12


Perfect weekend wineries


San Guido

6 Duemani 7 Prima Pietra 8 Caiarossa




River Arno





Castagneto Carducci



Tyrrhenian Sea


3 5


Lucca Pisa




Tyrrhenian Sea



Cecina Bolgheri Castagneto Carducci


Trieste Milan









Tyrrhenian Sea



Ligurian Sea





HE TALL STRAIGHT cypresses in double row run from San Guido to Bolgheri.’ So wrote 19th-century local author Giosuè Carducci about this poetic wine region. While the image of those towering, ancient guardians lingers on in the collective imagination, Bolgheri’s wine scene is shifting beyond the picturesque into purposeful action. In June 2017, Bolgheri World Wine Town ( opened in Castagneto Carducci’s recently restored Casone Ugolino. The former tobacco factory has been converted to offer comfortable accommodation in the form of 20 self-catering apartments, rooms and villas. There are also three restaurants – including a popular Tuscan all-you-can-eat format at Mercato del Borgo, the more contemporary pizzeria Metri 0, and Osteria Vinality, a reconstruction of an old Tuscan inn – plus an ice-cream parlour and even a helipad. The two-floor museum retraces the history of Italian oenology, focusing on Bolgheri’s


Via Bolgh



San Martino


From vine-covered vistas to modern masterpieces, this beautiful part of Tuscany has it all. Helen Farrell acts as guide





Below: view of Caiarossa’s 70ha of vineyards and the distinctive red cantina

beginnings. Latest-generation holograms of Gaddo della Gherardesca, Piero Antinori and Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta relate their family winemaking stories, while Michele Satta and Pier Mario Meletti Cavallari talk about Piastraia and Grattamacco. Designed by Academy Award-winning art director Dante Ferretti, the barn-like space is designed to double as a visitors’ centre, thanks to a wine card system and sommelier-led tastings on request; while seminal books by the world’s wine writers line the rustic shelves.

Maps: Maggie Nelson


1 2 3 4 5


MY PERFECT DAY IN RIPARBELLA MORNING Wake up to birdsong at Casone Ugolino (see p106). Then take a leisurely half-hour drive down the Via Vecchia Aurelia as far as Cecina before branching off on the Strada Comunale di Montescudaio. Climb up into the hills through the town of Riparbella to biodynamic boutique winery Duemani ( Be swept away by the expanse of Cabernet Franc while sipping fine yet fresh wines in the just-opened airy tasting room.

LUNCH Stone-clad walls and wooden-beamed ceilings greet travellers to Trattoria del Papero (, in Riparbella. Expect traditional country cooking, made to generations-old recipes. The wine list features local

FACT FILE Planted area 1,205ha Production 5.7 million bottles Main grapes Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Sangiovese White: Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc Producers 41

Trattoria del Papero names such as La Regola and Tenuta di Canneto (try the white Sangiovese), plus Bolgheri stalwarts like Guado al Tasso’s Il Bruciato and Le Macchiole’s Paleo.

AFTERNOON Feel the sea breeze caress your face at the highest vineyard along the Tuscan

Art at Ornellaia With a taste of Bolgheri wines already on your lips, your next stop can only be one of the quintessential ‘aias’. Ornellaia (www.ornellaia. com), five minutes from Bolgheri by car, stretches at the northern end of the winerylined Via Bolgherese. Reserve your appointment months in advance to be buzzed through the hallowed

coast with magical views of the Mediterranean on the horizon. This single, sweeping, verdant vineyard stretches below the Prima Pietra winery (, owned by Massimo Ferragamo, son of the famous shoe designer. A refined tasting room on the first floor of the farmhouse is set to open in summer 2018. Another expanse of greenery awaits at Caiarossa ( The brick-red painted winery demands your attention on arrival and continues to captivate on the inside with the vertical, gravity-driven cellar built to feng shui principles. Find out about the producer’s biodynamic winemaking on a cellar tour with the young international team before tasting the cantina’s vivacious namesake wine, a seven-varietal blend.

gate and down the long driveway flanked with verdant vines. Either side of the sunken cantina entrance you will see a site-specific artwork: Cairo-born Ghada Amer’s Happily Ever After iron and jasmine garden installation, and Japanese artist Yutaka Sone’s Carrara-inspired marble statue. The artistic highlight of the cellar tour is Rebecca Horn’s ever-moving sculpture in the barricaia, ➢

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Above: Ghada Amer’s Happily Ever After iron and jasmine garden installation at Ornellaia instilling subtle energy to the precious liquor resting in the French oak barrels. The visit ends with a tasting of Ornellaia’s elegant wines, from the approachable Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia to the terroir-driven cuvée Ornellaia. Continue along the Via Bolgherese in the direction of Castagneto Carducci, and take a left onto the Traversa di Lamentano. Even the most experienced wine adventurer is advised to pull over upon reaching the Serni olive oil mill and give Marina Tinacci Mannelli a call. Down a steep hill and across a ford, her estate, Mulini di Segalari (www.mulinidisegalari. it) has to be be seen to be believed. Planted every which way with vines, vibrant even post-harvest, this is a thriving valley of sustainability. Following Tinacci around the former mill site is an education as the winemaker excitedly points out her justplanted Sauvignon Gris, hands you Vermentino grapes to taste and chats about plans to welcome visitors for organic healthy lunches and ‘winemaker for a day’ experiences. Step into the minuscule cellar where all the bottling and labelling is still done by hand. Wines include 10,000 bottles of sea-breezy 100% Sangiovese Soloterra, and an expressive Vermentino and Manzoni Bianco white blend called Un po’ più su del Mare, as well as more typical Bolgheri blends. Still in the Segalari area, but up on the hill and a cork’s throw from the hilltop town of Castagneto Carducci, Podere Castellaccio ( has some of the

Above: Bolgheri’s new World Wine Town has a visitor centre offering sommelier-led tastings

oldest vines and most mesmerising views in Bolgheri. The 18ha estate has just 3.5ha under vine, organic Ciliegiolo, Foglia Tonda, Pugnitello and Sangiovese, plus a Cabernet Franc parcel as a concession to Bolgheri’s contemporary scene. Alessandro Scappini is boldly staying true to his grandfather’s native vineyards. A dreamy place to holiday, the estate boasts six beautifully appointed suites and verdant views as far as the Mediterranean. Light pours in through the floor-to-ceiling window in the new tasting room, where cured meats and cheeses are served as an accompaniment to the elegant Dinostro, an approachable 100% Sangiovese; Valénte, an opulent, fruit-forward native grape blend; and the fascinating Somatico, a punchy pure Pugnitello. Arrive here an hour before sunset and watch the Tuscan tramonto at its most seductive.

Modern monuments GETTING THERE Fly to Pisa, then the driving time to Bolgheri is about one hour.

‘Bolgheri’s wine scene is shifting beyond the picturesque into purposeful action’

Back down on the Bolgheri plain, organically certified Podere Sapaio ( has been shaping a cult following with its crownemblazoned labels since 1999. Start your visit at the unassuming enoteca and spacious modern cellars through the winery’s signature red gate off the main road in Donoratico. Veneto-born Massimo Piccin explains his ethos of emphasising the land, vinifying ➢ D E C A N T E R • I t a l y 2 018 | 10 5



Villa Le Luci

A selection of beautifully appointed suites and apartments nestled in woodland, with verdant views as far as the Mediterranean at this promising winery.

Casone Ugolino Above: Campo alle Comete has ambitious plans to double its vineyards and plant more Merlot and ageing each variety and parcel of vineyard separately and blending before returning the Sapaio Bolgheri DOC Superiore to the barrique for a final four or five months. The €30 tour continues around the vineyards planted with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot before heading down the bucolic back lanes of Bolgheri to the (again) red-gated Podere. Enjoy a tasting of the terroir-driven Sapaio and Volpolo Bolgheri DOC in the stylish contemporary interior, or outdoors on the breezy patio gazing at the vines, a single fortress topping the distant hills beyond. Also on the flat, now under development but already open to visitors, Campo alle Comete ( is southern Italian standard-bearer Feudi di San Gregorio’s 2016 Bolgheri investment. Previously owned by Guicciardini Strozzi, the circular cellar emanates a space-like atmosphere, standing like an observatory with its weathered steel finish, well signposted with sky-blue totems off the Via Bolgherese. The barrique cellar carries on the astral theme, the ceiling scattered with tiny star-like lights, while the wine shop’s modern, bottle-lined walls give an introduction to the ambitious Campo alle Comete project: 15ha of international varieties, half of which is Merlot, with immediate plans to double the planted area. With Antinori’s striking cantina and restaurant in the works along the Via Vecchia Aurelia and, among others, Argentinian entrepreneur Alejandro Bulgheroni’s multimillion euro investments still taking shape along the Tuscan coast, Bolgheri looks set to enjoy an even brighter future. D Helen Farrell is editor-in-chief of The Florentine, the English news magazine in Florence, Italy 10 6 | I t a l y 2 018 • D E C A N T E R

A former tobacco factory now turned into comfortable accommodation, on-site eateries and a wine museum.

off the famous cypress-lined avenue, it boasts prestigious wines and top dishes.

Villa Le Luci

Bolgheri Green

Sumptuous and stylish, this bed and breakfast is the perfect getaway, on the edge of Castagneto Carducci.

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

Relais Le Fornacelle Contemporary Tuscan country-style apartments with an enticing pool for a hot Bolgheri summer’s day.

Tombolo Talasso Resort Opt for the gourmet and relax package at this high-end spa resort by the sea – or just pamper yourself with a spa day.

Ceralti Unwind at Ceralti wine estate with spacious apartments (and even a villa) among the peace of peach trees and vineyards.

RESTAURANTS Enoteca San Guido Open all day, every day, this is the nearest that most visitors to Bolgheri get to the legendary Sassicaia. Just

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

Io Cucino Natural wines and seriously good food in this Bibbona outpost, whose centrepiece is an old grindstone. www.

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

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

SHOPS Bolgheri Più

La Carabaccia

A cute contemporary concept store in the middle of Bolgheri selling local crafts and clothes, plus a restaurant and wine bar with outdoor seating space.


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