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
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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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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Sardinia: where to stay, eat and shop

Sardinia: where to stay, eat and shopCarla Capalbo picks out the must visit hotels, restaurants and shops for the ideal Sardinia wine holiday. Hotel Nibaru, SardiniaSardinia: where to stay, eat and shop
Hotels
Locanda Conte Mameli, Olbia
In the town centre, this is a small hotel in a historic palazzo with some character. www.lalocandadelcontemameli.com
Li Finistreddi, Arzachena
Near Arzachena, at Micalosu, this country resort near the vineyards offers all the comforts of a summer retreat. www.finistreddi.it
Hotel Nibaru, Cala di Volpe
Stay here to delight in the Costa Smeralda on a budget: fantastic location, a lovely pool and walking access to several beaches. www.hotelnibaru.it
Agriturismo Agrisole, Casagliana
If you prefer to stay outside the towns, this agriturismo is middle between Olbia and Arzachena, and offers a more rustic atmosphere, with local dishes available for dinner. www.agriturismo-agrisole.com
Restaurants
Caffè Cosimino, Olbia
In Olbia’s town centre of Piazza Margherita, this wine bar features a huge selection of wines and excellent food. Always open. Tel: +39 0789 21001
Ristorante Barbagia, Olbia
Try some of the hinterland dishes of pork, wild boar and cheeses in the spacious Ristorante Barbagia. www.ristorantebarbagia.com
Ristorante Nino, Pittulongu
A few kilometres outside Olbia, in Hotel Stefania, this restaurant offers local Sardinian dishes, along with lovely rooms and views of (and access to) the sandy Pittulongu beaches. www.stefaniahotel.it
Ristorante Il Tirabusciò, Calangianus
Inland at Calangianus, in the hills where the cork trees grow, this affordable venue prepares homemade traditional food, with pastas (boiled and fried) and locally reared meats and vegetables. Tel: +39 0796 61849
Gelateria da Pasqualina, Porto Cervo
In the Promenade du Port at Porto Cervo, this ice creamery makes its own fabulous ices and pastries from Mediterranean fruits and nuts. www.lapasqualina.com
Stelle D Stelle, Porto Cervo
Stelle D Stelle hosts Michelin-starred chefs in summer.
In summer, this restaurant hosts Italian Michelin- starred chefs who prepare their own gourmet food. www.stelledstelle.com
Shopping
Soha Sardinia, Porto Cervo
As well as offering handmade jewellery and additional accessories, this boutique makes fine, polyphenol-rich skin creams using an wring of red Cannonau grapes. www.sohasardinia.com
In Vino Veritas, Olbia
On the Corso Umberto in the centre of Olbia, you will find a large selection of Sardinian wines to taste and buy, and they also supply set alight lunches. www.invinoveritas.playfun.tv
Thursday market, San Pantaleo
In the small, traditional village of San Pantaleo, there is a fun market each week where you can find local produce, crafts, artworks and more.
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Video: DAWA 2015 Judging Week

Video: DAWA 2015 Judging WeekSee the highlights of DAWA 2015 Judging week, hear from our DAWA judges, and find out why you should look out for a DAWA medal!See DAWA 2015 judging week in pictures
See the DAWA 2015 judging panel
Find out where you can taste DAWA winning wines
Find DAWA wines and promotional offers
 
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Anson on Thursday: Redefining Rioja terroir

Anson on Thursday: Redefining Rioja terroirJane Anson explores Rioja terroir with fresh eyes and finds there is a fightback in the Spanish province amongst those seeking to promote its diversity. Grapes hang on the vine in Spain's Rioja.There is a back road into Rioja from France that I cannot recommend highly enough. It scales the Pyrénées mountains, through winding country passes that switch between French and Spanish Basque villages.
You pass hand-made signs offering Baigorre ham, Pryénées brebis, Espelette peppers, fresh river trout and spicy Basque chocolate. The backdrop zigzags between dense swathes of oak, beech, fir and birch forest and wide-open vistas across mountains and fertile valley floors.
You arrive in Rioja not only exhilarated, but with a apparent understanding of the influence that altitude and orientation exerts over these wines. Rioja sits within its own fruitbowl of mountains, most notably the Obarenas and the Cantabrias, with dramatic escarpments from Sierra de la Demanda to Sierra de Valdezcaray. Its soils are a jumble of slates, limestones, sandstones, loam, gravels and clays, as you would expect in an area so clearly governed by shifting tectonic plates, cut through by the quick-flowing Ebro river. And yet, the go to talk about this has been a weirdly long time appearance.
When learning about wine in the classroom, Rioja is seen as one of the excellent guys, the establishment figure of quality regions in Spain. And yet there’s an uncomfortable complacency at its heart that is causing increasing frustration.
It’s been just over two years since my last visit, and I was struck by how many winemakers are now openly lamenting the negative impact of huge brands and industrial production on the province’s quality image. The focus of rage seems to be aimed at towards the system of labeling according to length of ageing (so the Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva that we see on wine marks) that forms the backbone of Rioja’s traditional sales and marketing.
The largest surprise, for me, is that this has taken so long. Why don’t more Rioja producers make a noise about the fact that when the province does talk about geography, it is usually only by dividing the wines into the three distinct regions of Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja? There are over 140 villages across Rioja, on both the Left and Right banks of the Ebro, and yet it is forbidden – in fact forbidden – to mention them on the wine marks, according to rules set by the Consejo Regulador regional wine body.
‘There is a blanket temptation in Rioja to approach wine only through what happens in the cellar,’ Alberto Saldon Maté of Sierra Cantabria says. ‘The usual business model is brands rather than vineyards, and the usual approach is to blend grapes from across the full province. Both of these things undermine the image of quality’.
This family-owned group, headed up by Marcos Eguren, is at the forefront of the go to reclaim the importance of place. Around 25% of the grapes they use are bought in from additional growers, but their family bottlings such as San Vincente and La Nieta use only their own vines.‘We avoid putting the traditional terms such as Reserva or Gran Reserva on our marks, and instead bottle according to site and terroir,’ says Saldon Maté. ‘We are pleased to use the generic Rioja mark for our single-vineyard wines, as the usual distinctions are often small more than box ticking.’
I loved the discussion at Sierra Cantabria, but the wines have plenty of ‘modern Rioja’ signatures in the form of 100% tempranillo and serious amounts of new oak and I was subdue left wondering what Riojan terroir really meant. It wasn’t until I arrived at Remelluri, in the lower foothills of Sierra de Tolono, that I started to feel quicker to an answer.
Remelluri is one of the oldest properties in Rioja Alavesa, near the hamlet of Ribas del Tereso. Its background gives you that same wild, electric jolt that you get from approaching Chalone in California, or Glenwood in Franschhoek. Within minutes of arrival we were walking through the vineyards up a dusty mule footstep that led to the ruins of Monte Tolono monastery, abandoned in 1422 after the monks struggled with the harsh mountain climate. We climbed up to a ridge that overlooked the vines, the path heavy with the scent of wild anis, thyme, rosemary and sage. The vineyards here are set across 200 plots, with an average size of just one acre. They lie at the highest elevation in the province, south-facing and protected from the winds that often cause nail-biting harvests (one of the reasons that winemakers prefer to blend from across the province, building use of the sugar-rich tempranillo grapes from the hotter Rioja Baja).
I knew of owner and winemaker Telmo Rodriguez, followed some of his brilliant wines from sites around northeast Spain in Galicia and Toro, but had ever been to his home estate. He is often called Rioja’s prodigal son, as he spent over a decade doing his own thing previous to returning to work alongside his sister Amaia Rodriguez Henandorena at Remelluri in 2010.
He is also the poster boy for Rioja terroir driven wines, and since 2010 has ensured that Remelluri bottles the grapes that it buys from local growers into a break range, Las Lindes de Remelluri, leaving his family wine to express the singular character of its own vineyard.
‘I wanted to reflect the real Remelluri,’ Telmo tells me. ‘Too many decisions in Rioja are made by managers and commercial people, and inevitably that has taken the province away from the vines. My starting point has always been to search out the original taste of Rioja, to learn the potential of the best vineyard sites, the grand crus’.
The best way to be with you what Remelluri is about is to try the estate colorless wine – a field mix of nine different varieties that defies simple description – a squeeze of citrus zest, a clutch of wild herbs, a lick of wet stones. The best way to describe it is of tasting exactly of itself. Right, as Sylvia Plath once said, like a well done sum.
The reds question the same questions, and are equally a reflection of the historical diversity of Rioja – a province that used to be home to 70 grape varieties and is now too-often given over to just tempranillo and gernacha (grenache). One plot in the Remelluri vineyard is planted with over 20 historical varieties, used as a nursery to maintain genetic diversity. Bush training is being reintroduced, as are terraces, and a variety of concrete tanks, oak barrels and large-sized oak vats – some new, some ancient – are used to age the wines.
These are wines to fall in like with. I did, and I hope you do too. But the man who makes them is restless, conflicted and searingly trustworthy.
‘By cutting out bought-in grapes, reducing yields by 40% and introducing a second wine, I have augmented the cost of building Remelluri drastically. Doing this makes me anti-competitive and the worry is that I won’t be able to continue. It’s why so many producers here are pleased to turn out supermarket wines – there is a market for them, and it’s simple. One of the problems is that Rioja has so many natural advantages that even the cheaper wines taste excellent. For me, those ‘fake excellent’ wines make it apparent that with the right viticulture and an trustworthy approach to terroir, Rioja can equal the greatest wine regions in the world. But it will take bravery and curiosity to get there’.
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