10 top Argentina Syrah

10 top Argentina SyrahArgentina Syrah is being made into a fresher, lighter style, that would please any Rhône lover - especially from the high altitude vineyards. Patricio Tapia picks the top wines to try.Argentina and Syrah
Malbec is not the only variety in Argentina now being made in a fresher, lighter style that is less biased with alcohol and less influenced by new oak. Syrah is also getting this treatment. Long offering very ripe and sweet wines, it is slowly delivering a fruitier and fresher face; Syrahs that are now more enjoyable for fans of the northern Rhône.
Of the more than 200,000 hectares of vineyards planted across Argentina, only 12,809ha are given over to Syrah, and more than 90% of these grow below the intense sun in Mendoza and San Juan. In lower (and therefore warmer) zones, the wines will usually feel too rich and sweet for Rhône lovers: there’s ample ripeness and juiciness but also a lack of acidity. For the best and most elegant examples you must climb the mountains.
In high-altitude vineyards, the warmth drops and the poorest soils allocate for more structured wines. The foothills of the Andes in San Juan, as well as in the Uco Valley or some parts of luján de Cuyo, are home to some of the best Syrahs in Argentina – more precise in their fruit and more vibrant in their acidity, sometimes with those spicy, mineral and savoury charcuterie or bacon stout tones that one tends to associate with northern Rhône examples. Read more

Italy wine harvest 2015 looking good, say producers

Italy wine harvest 2015 looking good, say producersWinemakers across Italy appear confident about the 2015 wine harvest, despite a summer heatwave that forced some to use emergency irrigation. Some Trentino vineyards needed irrigation against dry heat of 2015Italy wine harvest conditions ‘favourable’
The Unione Italiana Vini, which represents wine producers throughout Italy, reported ‘more or less negligible’ disease thanks to a ‘favourable climate throughout the season’, but reported ‘amongst highest July temperatures’ in the last few years.
An absence of rainfall also burned or dehydrated bunches in some vineyards, ‘requiring emergency irrigation operations.’
At Castello di Fonterutoli in Chianti, where the 2015 wine harvest is expected to end in two weeks, co-owner Marchese Francesco Mazzei said three weeks of heat provoked a halt to the vegetative cycle of his Sangiovese vines, but the sun and relieving rain at the end of August and September improved things.
‘We subdue have a link of weeks to go… but it looks to be like a pretty excellent vintage,’ said Mazzei of the harvest, which started on 7 September. Read more

Amazon France opens online wine service

Amazon France opens online wine serviceAfter several fake starts, Amazon France has started selling over 34,000 food and alcohol products, in a direct challenge to the power of French supermarkets.
Starting on 23rd September, the number of products available on Amazon France is around three times more than the average supermarket in France, according to industry observers. But so far there are no frozen or fresh crop.
There are, but, already over 4,000 references of wine, Champagnes, beers and spirits, in a go that will again threaten traditional distribution channels.
Delivery is free for orders over €25, and the opening range has over 800 different wines including Moët & Chandon Imperial for €41.29, Château Labégorce 2010 for €35.90, and a wide range of international wines – a category that is traditionally underserved in French supermarkets.
The number of wines available is expected to rise substantially.
Amazon France Food Retail Director, Yannick Migotto, told trade paper LSA Commerce & Consommation, ‘our objective is to offer low prices each day, but to combine that with excellent benefit’.
To mark the launch there are also a number of ‘exceptional products’ available, such as gourmet hampers. Read more

Anson on Thursday: The Winery in the Desert

In this week's column, Jane Anson sees the vineyards at the Bardenas national park, where Bordeaux varieties are growing in desert conditions. Vines growing in the Bardenas desertThis week, Game of Thrones is filming its sixth series in the Bardenas National Park. My guess is that not many of the 8 million viewers, or even the 1,200 extras drafted in for filming, will have heard of this UNESCO-protected, semi-arid, desert in Navarra, northwest Spain. But for those who have, the choice makes perfect sense.
The desolate landscape of the 42,000-hectare Bardenas Reales could be in Mexico, Nevada, Egypt, Tunisia, Mars… (or even Essos, Game of Thrones fans). Single-footstep roads lead you to canyons, plateaus and sun-baked rocky crags rising out of the sand. It is hard to believe that this martian landscape, whipped by wind and wearing away, sits just over an hour from the fertile Pyrénées Mountains. A link of Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns have been filmed here, as has a recent Duniya Soori Bollywood musical and a host of Spanish thrillers.
If you want to explore it for yourself, there is only one hotel that gets you really close. The Aires de Bardenas sits just back from the dusty footstep that leads into the park. It is as stark and dreamlike as the surrounding badlands, with ancient fruit crates forming the outer walls of the carpark and swimming pool. And if you head just a small further along, as the desert landscape takes over and the cracks in the sun-parched earth start to widen ominously, there is a vineyard.
The first time I saw it was a ‘slam-on-the-brakes’ moment. Vines are, as we all know, hardy and stubborn plants. They like to grow where additional shrubbery takes flight. But few places bring this home more brutally than seeing them thriving and healthy on the edge of the Bardenas desert. Read more

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

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
90pts
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
91pts
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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