Don’t make English vintage every year, says Exton Park winemaker

Don’t make English vintage every year, says Exton Park winemakerExton Park, in Hampshire, has just released its first vintage sparkling wine – a 2011 Blanc de Blancs – deferring from the trend amongst English winemakers to regularly produce a vintage. Exton Park, in the Hampshire South Downs. Exton Park winemaker Corrine Seely – who was part of the winemaking team for the first colorless wine at Chateau Lynch-Bages – believes that in England, because of the unpredictable weather, ‘it would be quite hard to make a excellent vintage each year.’
Exton Park Blanc de Blancs 2011
‘Of course you can make a vintage each year – apart from perhaps 2012,’ Seely said ‘but in general, you could make a vintage each year, but what I call a vintage is the finest quality possible. I don’t believe that would be possible to do here each year.’
Only 2500 bottles of the single-vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2011 were made.
Exton Park’s previous releases were non-vintage Brut, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé – all of which were awarded medals in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards.
Seely credits Exton Park owner Malcolm Isaac for letting her take a gamble in 2011 and order extra vats to make a reserve wine – which requires more time and work to look after.
In 2011, the rainfall was low in the July flowering season, at only approximately 50ml – compared to 120ml in the washout year 2012 – followed by a warm and dry autumn.
The team at Exton Park are also feeling positive about the 2015 harvest, which is due to start on 15th October.
Vineyard Manager Fred Langdale said that the ‘fruit is looking really promising’  and he was feeling ‘quietly confident’ about it– especially after the Met Office has reported that the UK is set for an Indian summer, to last three weeks, with temperatures reaching up to 25 degrees.
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Mixed conditions for Bordeaux red harvest

Mixed conditions for Bordeaux red harvestAfter exceptional growing conditions throughout the 2015 season, the rain in September has been a challenge for the Bordeaux red harvest - but winemakers wait positive. Rain throughout September has been a challenge for the Bordeaux red harvest, but dry whites have been picked. Saint Espèphe has recorded between 50 and 60mm of rain, while Margaux is a small lower at around 40-50mm depending on location, and 58mm recorded overall at the central Mérignac weather station, up to Monday September 21.
This is around three times the rainfall in Bordeaux in September 2014, but subdue within the September averages. As the vines are in brilliant health with thick skins, most winemakers are reporting that there has been very small spread of rot on well-drained soils.
Basile Tesseron at Château Lafon Rochet in Saint Julien told, ‘We are quite surprised. By the middle of last week we thought that we would have to start picking early, but in fact we are just bringing in two small plots of young Merlot vines this week, and the rest of the grapes we will start on September 28, as plotted’.
Christophe Coupez, consultant at OenoCentres in Pauillac, who works with dozens of cru bourgeois and classified estates across the Médoc, said, ‘The few days of rain in mid-August first activated the spores of rot, but they dried up quickly and have remained dry. Producers are silent right now while they assess the impact of the rains. Most have brought in the young vines but intend to wait until the older vines reach their full ripeness. We subdue expect a fantastic vintage’.
In Sauternes and Barsac, Denis Dubourdieu, owner of Château Doisy Daënes said that the sweet wine harvest is looking positive; with noble rot spreading and the first round of grapes in the cellars.
‘The dry whites are now all picked, so we can be confident of the quality,’ Dubourdieu said. ‘The grapes for the sweet wine were able to withstand the recent rains very well, and the potential is high’.
The Bordeaux red harvest ‘will find continued rain more troubling,’ he said, ‘but so far those who have ensured excellent aeration of the vines have no need to worry’.
This is a vintage that promises to be exceptional,’ says Tesseron, ‘but you need to know your vines and your plots very well; and be a excellent professional to steer it into the cellars’.
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Cornas ‘legend’ Noël Verset dies at the age of 95

Cornas ‘legend’ Noël Verset dies at the age of 95Cornas winemaker, Noël Verset, has passed away in the town of Guilherand-Granges, on 14th September 2015, at the age of 95.Born in Cornas, in December 1919, Noël Verset was considered by many a legend in Cornas winemaking, particularly for his stubbornness about keeping his vines on very steep slopes.
He started working in the vines in 1931, at the age of 12 with his father, continuing until 1943.
After the phyloxerra crisis and the fantastic recession in France, wines from Cornas were predominantly sold in bulk. Prices dropped and the vintners started to plant vines in places that were simpler to plow, such as the plains.
Noël Verset, with his fellow colleagues, Auguste Clape and René Balthazar, persisted in working with his vines on steep slopes, despite the hard nature of work.
Noël Verset highlighted the quality found in Cornas and helped open the way to younger generations, such as Thierry Allemand, Laurent Courbis and his nephew Franck Balthazar.
His traditional winemaking practices became a benchmark for many winemakers working in the province today: low yields, full maturity, fermentation in cement vats and ageing in ancient demi-muids (600-litre barrels).
Despite owning some of the best terroirs in Cornas, like Chaillots, Reynard and Sabarotte, Verset produced only one cuvee, which was assembled from all of his terroirs.
In 1985, he chose to sell his Reynard parcel to one of  his philosophical heirs, Thierry Allemand. In 2001, in preparation for his retirement, he sold his Sabarotte parcel to Auguste Clape and Laurent Courbis, and a few years before long, sold the Chaillots parcel to his nephew, Franck Balthazar.
The 2000 was his last vintage, but he continued to make wine for himself and his family until 2006.
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Croft Port opens Duoro Valley vineyard to tourists

Croft Port opens Duoro Valley vineyard to touristsCroft Port, one of the oldest names in Port, has opened the doors of its Duoro Valley vineyard, Quinta da Roeda, to tourists.
The visitor centre at the Duoro ValleyCroft Port’s new visitor centre offers tourists an insight into a working vineyard, with tastings of a range of Croft Ports, tours of the vineyards and wineries and a chance to experience the foot-treading of the grapes.
Quinta da Roeda, near the village of Pinhao in Portugal, has terraced vineyards overlooking the River Duoro.
The vineyards and cellars were extensively renovated when Croft returned to family ownership in 2001, including reintroducing traditional granite lagares – the large tanks used for food-treading grapes.
Tourists will have the opportunity to participate in traditional foot-treading at the visitor centre during harvest time. Read more

Cru bourgeois votes for two-tier system

Cru bourgeois votes for two-tier systemThe Alliance de Cru Bourgeois has voted for a two-tier system that will see its members’ wines split into Cru Bourgeois and Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. 75 per cent of the 276 members voted in a secret ballot for the change at an AGM held on September 18.
It will mean that the current ‘Reconnaissance Cru Bourgeois’ will become a ‘Classement des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc’.
Once granted, the title will be valid for five years at a time – instead of the annual renewal administer that has been in place since 2008, which has been criticised by winemakers for building sustained communication with customers hard.
At the same time, the best wines will be separated off into a higher quality category, reminiscent of the former classification system when there were three levels of Cru Bourgeois, Supérieur and Exceptionnel.
The new system is expected to come into place in 2020 for the 2018 vintage, and future moves to reinstate all three levels have not been ruled out.
Fréderique de Lamotte, director of the Alliance, told that the change will give ‘a fresh sense of direction and drive’ to the cru bourgeois wines.
Frédéric de Luze, president of the Alliance, commented that the aim of the changes is to ‘clarify the communication for consumers, and to allocate winemakers to concentrate on developing and promoting the brands over a longer period of time’.
Although the final details are not yet finalised, it is understood that tasting will account for over 50 per cent of the inscription given to choose which level a château is awarded.
At least five years of vintages will be judged and all member châteaux will be eligible for the Cru Bourgeois Supérieur level.
The 2013 Cru Bourgeois official selection, below the current system, is due out this week.
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Jefford: A taste of Bichot

Jefford: A taste of BichotRun by the pragmatic, laid-back and pretension-averse Albéric Bichot from his house amid the vines of Pommard, the wines of this mid-sized négociant have been speedily improving over the last decade. Here are four to look out for.
Harvested grapes at Bichot.La Moutonne, Chablis Grand Cru, Long-Depaquit 2013
93 pts
From just 2.24 ha in Vaudésir plus a 0.11 ha nibble of Les Preuses, this lieux-dit monopole amongst the Grand Crus has only had three owners in five centuries.  The 2013 is a soft, graceful Chablis with scents of linden blossom and vine flower and a deep, structured, mellow yet plain flavour: ample and mouthfilling, yet poised too.  I like Grand Crus to have a small breadth to them, to take them further than Premier Cru pungency and stony asperity; this does.
Secrét de Famille Pinot Noir, Bourgogne Rouge, Bichot 2013
88 pts
A parcel selection with lower yields and more fastidious handling than for most regional red Burgundy.  Apparent and set alight in colour, with a pungent blast of raspberry and cherry dominating the aromas; pure, fresh, long and tapered flavours, ideal for serving lightly chill in order to point up the subdued but purposeful tannins.  Tasty and refreshing.
Pommard Premier Cru Rugiens, Domaine du Pavillon 2013
Deep red, with intriguing scents of wax, incense and metal shavings.  A cascade of plums on the palate: chewy and lively.  Pure Pommard.
Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Malconsorts, Domaine du Clos Frantin 2013
Some evident oak but a gale of orchard blossom beneath.  Plain, pure and resonant flavours with plenty of ligament and sap: a classical mid-term mouthful from the village we all dream of.
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Top 10 South African Syrah

Top 10 South African SyrahTim Atkin MW chooses his top 10 South African Syrah, where Syrah is emerging as the Cape's most exciting red grape. The best South African Syrah
If you were looking for evidence of how recently Syrah has risen to prominence in South Africa, you could do worse than visit Sijnn in Malgas and Porseleinberg in the Swartland – remarkable vineyards at opposite ends of the winelands. These very different sites are producing two of the finest examples of the grape in the country and yet their first vintages were in 2007 and 2010, correspondingly.
Syrah may have arrived on South African shores in the second half of the 17th century, but it’s only recently that it has emerged as the Cape’s most exciting red grape, with 10% of plantings and increasing.
Are these Rhône style? It all depends what you mean by the term. The Cape has a Mediterranean climate, so even its cooler sites, located at altitude or close to the Atlantic or Indian oceans, are warmer than the northern Rhône. And yet many of the best wines show the pepper spice, tapenade and blackberry notes that are so predictable of that well-known french valley. Read more

Minimal winery damage in Chilean earthquake, say first reports

Minimal winery damage in Chilean earthquake, say first reportsChile’s winemakers appear to have got away with only a few cracked vats following the powerful earthquake that struck near to Coquimbo and has killed 10 people. Coquimbo Chile, September 17th. The aftermath of this weeks earthquake. Trade body Wines of Chile said that early reports suggest the industry has not been terribly affected by the earthquake, which also saw 1m people forced to leave their homes.
Wines of Chile has been contacting the wineries in the area near La Serena – close to the earthquake’s epicentre – where they said hurt is minimal.
Anita Jackson, UK Director of Wines of Chile said, ‘Amazingly apart from some buckled stainless steel tank legs, some cracks in additional tanks, there has been a minimum loss of wine.’
Wineries south of the epicentre have reported the same.
But, Wines of Chile is subdue continuing to gather in rank on the situation, with the help of the wineries in the association.
The vineyards and wineries have been able to continue to work in habitual conditions since the earthquake, which is due to the high standard of construction and equipment Chilean wineries have, Wines of Chile said.
Chile is one of the most earthquake-level countries in the world.
Jackson said, ‘Today (September 18th) is Chile’s Independence Day (Dieciocho Day), it’s a public holiday so the nation will subdue try and celebrate despite the earthquake. We should raise a class to them, for their staunch attitude, they amaze me with their shaken but not broken attitude.’
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