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 decanter.com, ‘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 decanter.com 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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Stellenbosch Cabernet tasting lays down a marker

Decanter make pleased director John Stimpfig attended a landmark tasting of Stellenbosch Cabernet vintages from 2000 to 2011 in South Africa. Read his review and see his top wines. On the eve of Cape Wine 2015, 20 of Stellenbosch’s best known Cabernet producers came together in a collective show of force at Cape Town Waterfront’s plush One & Only hotel to present a historic tasting to a packed audience of South African buyers and press.
Wineries built-in Vergelegan, Kanonkop, Rustenberg, Delaire Graff, Glenelly and Waterford with a range of vintages from 2000 to 2011. Le Riche’s veteran cellarmaster Etienne le Riche said, ‘This was the best tasting of Stellenbosch Cabernet I have ever experienced.’
The subtext of the tasting was a timely riposte by the Stellenbosch ancient guard to some of South Africa’s young guns building significant waves in newer regions.
Event moderator, South African Greg Sherwood MW of Handford Wines in London, told Decanter, ‘there’s no doubt that regions like Swartland are doing a fantastic job in promoting its edginess, newness and excitement. But that’s no wits to overlook or forget that Stellenbosch has an incredible tale to tell with its fantastic Cabernets. These wines are world-class, have fantastic ageing potential and represent incredible value.’
‘Cabernet is subdue the yardstick by which all regions are judged, and over the years, Stellenbosch has proven to be the most successful area in South Africa for building fantastic Cabernet,’ added Le Riche who is also a member of the Cape Winemaker’s Guild. ‘I want Stellenbosch to become well-known for the variety that does best here. And that variety is Cabernet.’
Johan Malan, who helped organise and coordinate the tasting, also argued that Stellenbosch is South Africa’s best province for Cabernet and has a proven footstep confirmation of over seventy years. ‘The vital thing to remember is that Cabernet chose Stellenbosch. Not the additional way around.’
‘This event is really the launch of a campaign to re-establish Stellenbosch’s Cabernet credentials amongst global consumers,’ he continued. ‘In the longer term, we’d like to take it around the world to a number of major cities.’
Cabernet Sauvignon is the third most planted variety in South Africa and the most planted in Stellenbosch with a 20% share of the vineyard surface.
Yet there are major challenges for Stellenbosch Cabernet. Jan Boland Coetzee, winemaker at Vriesenhof, commented that some winemakers hadn’t done enough with plant material and leaf roll virus. Vergelegen’s Andre van Rensburg had the same view: ‘we need to sort this out as soon as possible.’
Stellenbosch’s Kingdom of Cabernet
These are my top six wines from a truly spectacular tasting of top Stellenbosch Cabernet at the One & Only Hotel at Cape Town’s Waterfront. These wines can be drunk with food now or cellared for a number of years, depending on the vintage. They also represent nearly unbelievable value for the prices questioned. Proof positive that Stellenbosch Cabernet at its best is a match made in heaven.
Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
92 points
Made from Helderberg fruit by Kevin Arnold and Mark le Roux, this classical 2009 has attractive leafy, herbal aromas with intense cassis berry fruit. On the palate it is rich, structured and refined with juicy acidity, firm tannins and gorgeous layers of tobacco, blackcurrant, cedar and violets. Long end and plenty of ageing capacity.
Alc 14.4% ABV. Rand 210.
Drink 2015-2027.
Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
93 points
Very deep colour for a ten year ancient wine and no lack of primary fruit on the powerful nose. This is a forceful, dense and structured Cabernet which is only just entering its prime. Plush tannins, ink, mocha, black fruit, some sous-bois, tea leaf and a mineral edge combine to make this a stand out wine by one of the Cape’s greatest and most classical producers.
Alc 14% Cellar door.
Drink 2015-2027
Thelema Mountain Vineyards Rabelais 2011
91 points
Winemaker Rudi Schulz makes this from a blend of the estate’s best Bordeaux components carefully selecting the best individual barrels of Cabenet for the ever impressive Rabelais. Fantastic perfume, deep colour and rippling concentrated fruit easily handles the oak regime with total ease. Dark berry fruit, with coffee and mocha and blueberry notes there is a hint of cedar and vanilla. Utterly tasty with lush tannins, superb acidity and balance, this is fine, complex and long.
Alc 14.85% Cellar Door 390 Rand.
Drink 2016-2030
Le Riche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
93 points
According to Etienne Le Riche, this is one of his greatest Cabernet Sauvignons, which might clarify why it was John Platter’s Red Wine of the Year in 2005. Terrific elegance and definition here, with flavours of grilled meat, cassis, licquorice, graphite and tobacco. Perfectly evolved undergrowth notes and ripe sweet tannins. A blend of Cabernet fruit from Firgrove, and Jonkershoek this was made in classical open top concrete fermenters. Ready now, but plenty of life and pleasure subdue to come. A corker of a Cabernet.
Alc 14.46% Cellar Door.
Drink 2015-2025
Vergelegen Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
92 points
Andre Van Rensburg quipped that he isn’t quite sure why this is called a reserve because it is the only cabernet he makes. Shame, because this is remarkably excellent and only 5000 suitcases are produced. No overripe fruit here. Instead, this is leafy, juicy and fresh with cassis and savoury cigar box. The acidity is wonderfully integrated with the tannins and the nearly unobtrusive oak. And it wears the 14.5% alcohol very, very lightly. Benchmark stuff and a pleasure to drink.
Alc 14.5%. Cellar Door 250 Rand.
Drink 2015-2025
Stark-Conde Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
95 points
Modern, vibrant and vivacious. But also classical and right to its Stellenbosch roots. Fantastic florality (jasmine and violets), polish and presence here with ripe creamy cassis and coffee notes on the palate. The Cabernet fruit is grown on decomposed granite from the Jonkershoek Valley and winemaker Jose Conde’s expert fruit handling means that the silky tannins and violet notes really stand out and sing. This wine is all about elegance, freshness, pleasure and refinement. A genuine class act and a joy to drink now and for the next ten years.
Alc 14.5% Cellar Door
Drink 2015-2025.
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