What might prime minister Boris Johnson mean for the wine trade?

Boris Johnson wine
Boris Johnson is a fan of Tignanello.

In the last few weeks of the Conservative Party leadership campaign, Boris Johnson has styled himself – among other things – as a sceptic of so-called ‘sin taxes’ and a fan of Tignanello wine.

Johnson revealed his love for the Super Tuscan giant during a recent interview with the Politico publication, despite reportedly having to Google its name during the conversation.

It wasn’t lost on either party that Tignanello is also believed to have been a favourite of Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

Will Italy’s top wines still be able to flow freely into the UK after the 31 October, however?

Brexit would be the most pressing question for anyone obtaining the keys to Number 10 Downing Street this summer, but Johnson’s apparent willingness to flirt with the idea of a ‘no deal’ departure from the European Union has intensified the scrutiny.

A ‘no deal’ Brexit by the end of October 2019 was this week described as the ‘worst-case scenario’ by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

‘In line with other business sectors, the UK wine and spirit industry’s firm preference is for a negotiated EU exit, yet the WSTA must continue to prepare its members for a no deal exit scenario,’ said the trade body this week, in a new report on the sector’s readiness for Brexit.

Experts on both sides of the English Channel have expressed doubt about the reality of renegotiating the exit deal agreed by outgoing prime minister Theresa May in time for the extended Brexit deadline, while several MPs in Parliament have resolved to stop ‘no deal’ at all costs.

Johnson, for his part, has said the country needs to get Brexit done so that it can look forward.

His government’s initial moves in this area will be closely watched by a wine and spirits sector that will be going full pelt for the crucial Christmas selling season as the October Brexit deadline looms.

‘Despite efforts on both sides of the English Channel and Irish Sea, a no deal Exit would likely cause major disruption at the border in the short term,’ said the WSTA.

In January, it advised businesses to hold 20% extra stock in the first six months of 2019, when the original Brexit deadline was the end of March.

It said that most members had put contingency plans in place but ongoing uncertainty, it added, has cost its members time and money.

Although the WSTA said that it was confident the industry could meet its challenges, it’s no great secret that profit margins are tight in the wine trade.

Supply issues could naturally affect stocks, which might impact availability and prices on the shelves.

Last year, the WSTA said that a fall in pound sterling against the euro after the Brexit referendum had contributed to higher wine prices in the UK, which gets 55% of its wine imports from the EU.

However, the WSTA this week welcomed a previous government commitment to suspend tariffs on wine imports from the EU for 12 months, in a no-deal scenario.

In terms of employees, the WSTA has called for the government to review the £30,000 minimum salary threshold for EU workers after Brexit, so as not to damage the wine, hotel and restaurant sector’s access to expertise.

Brexit is likely to put the annual debate around duty tax on wine somewhat in the shade. Yet, this will also be a keenly watched area.

Johnson’s instinct to dislike so-called ‘sin taxes’ could be pitted against revenue arguments from the Treasury and health concerns.

On the latter note, progress of the government ‘s consultation on health prevention in the 2020s, opened yesterday (22 July), will be interesting to watch.

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Getting to know red Hermitage

Red Hermitage
The hill of Hermitage is situated on the east bank of the Rhône.

Compared to the southern Rhône, the northern Rhône is easy to understand. All the appellations follow a narrow strip of land that follows the west bank of the river for 60km, from Vienne in the north to Valence in the south.


Leading producers of red Hermitage:

Domaine JL Chave, M Chapoutier, Domaine Marc Sorrel

Under-the-radar options:

Domaine Bernard Faurie, Domaine Fayolle Fils & Fille, Domaine Yann Chave

Reliable, good value red Hermitage:

Domaine Marc Sorrel, Classique, Hermitage
Domaine Yann Chave, Hermitage
Fayolle Fils & Fille, Les Dionnières, Hermitage
Domaine du Colombier Hermitage

Red Hermitage key facts:

AOC Hermitage created in 1937
70% of Hermitage production is red wine
Permitted varieties Principally Syrah (can technically include 15% Marsanne, and/or Roussanne)
Climate Warm continental, very sunny with northerly winds
Annual production 3,602 hectolitres (2018)
Average yield 38hl/ha
Top recent vintages for red Hermitage 2015, 2010, 2015

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New app says it will translate wine labels

wine label translator

Third Aurora, a Melbourne-based company, has launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) application that it said can translate wine bottle labels into any language.

The app can also translate tasting notes, videos and a variety of other promotions, according to Dave Chaffey, the company’s director.

Field tests were set to begin later this month, involving 88 wineries based in several countries, from big producer nations like Australia and the US to producers in Lebanon and Israel.

It will, eventually, be able to function in more than 100 languages, according to Chaffey, who hopes the app will connect with new consumers and appeal to new markets.

Have you tried the Decanter Know Your Wine app?

What the industry says

Several wine industry experts were not impressed with the app, however.

Advances in AI and artificial reality (AR) may render some of the current technology—like this app—obsolete, they believe.

‘This technology doesn’t impress me,’ said Steve Raye, the New York City-based president of Bevology, a consulting company for wine and spirits brands. ‘I think it’s just a build on label recognition technology and not a very creative one at that.’

He added that he sees it as a way of ‘leveraging existing technology for a simple, singular use.’

He believes that Napa-based Treasury Wine Estates, which launched the interactive 19 Crimes Australian label two years ago, brought much more to the table, because ‘they added branding value coupled with a way of animating a marketing message.’

‘Most producers recognise they have to revise, or create, a new front label for the US market,’ he said.  ‘I don’t think “foreign wording” on a label is a problem to begin with [given that] many suppliers include foreign words [such as mise en bouteille au Château] to reinforce the concept that they are imported and from a particular place.’

However, he said the app could have ‘more value in countries where the customer traditionally only speaks and reads one language’.

Paul Mabray, the CEO of the Napa-based Emetry.io, which provides data to the wine industry, said that this application seemed to be ‘primarily a producer tool [albeit one that’s] great for wineries that export especially to countries like China’.

He added that technology like this will ‘soon become obsolete as [regular phone] cameras layer in artificial reality [AR] and we become more of a mixed reality society.’

However, he added that there is no doubt that this ‘is a welcome addition to the AR mix for wineries. Anything that helps communicate a story is good for the wine industry.’

Chaffey added that he hopes the next layer that will be added to the technology will include ‘an AI-driven sommelier to the experience [that would allow] consumers to ask questions.’

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Ramón Bilbao Mirto: A Rioja vertical

Ramón Bilbao Mirto Vertical
Ramón Bilbao Mirto is a 100% Tempranillo sourced from the estate’s best vineyards in Rioja Alta.

Ramón Bilbao has produced just 11 vintages of Mirto since its first release 20 years ago, in 1999, but it’s now, without doubt, one of the most important and influential wines in Rioja.


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Producer profile: Château Haut-Bailly

haut-bailly wines
The new line-up from Haut-Bailly.

Why is Château Haut-Bailly still such an insiders’ wine? Is it because this discreet, bijou estate makes only a few thousand cases of grand cru classe de Graves. Or is it also because canny collectors jealously like to keep it a closely guarded secret?

  • See Decanter Haut-Bailly tasting notes below

One thing is clear – today Haut-Bailly is one of the most consistent and quintessentially elegant clarets. Another is that its estimable quality stems from an exceptional red wine terroir, which its various owners and custodians have often done their utmost to reflect during its illustrious history. In effect therefore, Haut-Bailly has been doubly blessed – both by its proprietors and its position.

The vineyard sits adjacent to the château in a single unified block on the highest ridge of the Pessac-Léognan AC. The vines fall away on a gentle gradient, giving perfect exposure. A special mesoclimate protects it from spring frosts, while a mix of gravelly soils and subsoils provide minerals, moderate water stress and excellent drainage. Jean-Bernard Delmas, formerly of Château Haut-Brion, has famously described it as ’a truly great terroir’.


Haut-Bailly – a timeline

1461 Earliest records of vines on the estate’s gravelly rise

1630 Owners Firmin Le Bailly and Nicolas de Leuvarde expand and consolidate the vineyard to its present-day size of 33ha

1872 Alcide Bellot des Minières buys Haut-Bailly

1918 Haut-Bailly is bought by Frantz Malvesin

1955 Estate acquired by the Belgian Daniel Sanders

1979 Jean Sanders takes over from his father

1997 Véronique Sanders joins Haut-Bailly

1998 Robert G Wilmers purchases the property from the Sanders family

2000 Véronique Sanders appointed estate manager (and subsequently president)

2002 Gabriel Vialard becomes technical director

2012 Robert G Wilmers buys and renovates Château Le Pape

Magic formula

This all took a number of years – and not an inconsiderable amount of cash. ‘Bob’s investment was a bubble of pure oxygen for Haut-Bailly,’ says Sanders. ‘His understanding that the quality of the wine was paramount and that everything flowed from there enabled us to move not just faster, but also further.’

The impact really showed in the 2004 vintage. ‘That was the first big step,’ says Sanders. Another came in 2008, and it’s no coincidence that these two classical vintages are not the most lauded in Bordeaux. ‘This is one of the strengths of Haut-Bailly,’ she adds. ‘We always outperform in the so-called off-vintages.’ The 2013 has to be tasted to be believed, proving Haut-Bailly never misses.

With every vintage, her aim is constant: to bring out the best of Haut-Bailly’s prized terroir. What she’s looking for is a subtle balance between finesse and concentration. ‘My goal is fruit purity, freshness, smoothness and structure with soft, ripe tannins and pronounced aromatics.’ The blend varies from year to year, sometimes quite dramatically, which is further testament to Haut-Bailly’s remarkable consistency. Her harvest-time secret is always to pick the Merlot early for freshness and wait and wait for the Cabernet, harvesting it at the last possible moment.

‘Ultimately, I want a new golden era for Haut-Bailly, as we enjoyed in the 19th century,’ she says. Some (myself included) would argue that she and Wilmers have already achieved it. In today’s market it’s impossible to outperform and out-price the first growths. But Haut-Bailly has unquestionably closed the gap, taking the estate to new heights. Today it is a grand cru classé de Graves that enjoys the equivalent of ‘super-second’ status, often without the attendant price-tag. Most recently, Wilmers bought and renovated an estate nearby called Château Le Pape, which already shows great promise under Sanders’ supervision. ‘Bob always has plans. He is always looking. He often jokes by saying, “I have a good team here and I want to keep it busy”.’

Sanders clearly thrives on the challenge and couldn’t be more fulfilled. ‘There’s something magical about this place that I feel very intensely.’ The same goes for Wilmers and the rest of the remarkable group of people who love and care for this gem of a vineyard.

Haut-Bailly couldn’t be in better hands.

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California and Prohibition: Collateral damage

Alcohol supplies being destroyed during the Prohibition period

Call it absurd. Dub it naive. Describe it, hyperbolically, as the most asinine, most fruitless curb on alcohol ever conceived. We are, of course, speaking of the 18th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which, exactly a century ago, gave the American federal government the means to severely impede the sale of ‘intoxicating liquors’. Ratified, theoretically, to foster a better society, Prohibition proved to have the opposite effect. The forbiddance of alcohol ushered in an iconic era of bootleggers, speakeasies and a wholesale disregard for an amendment that engendered far more problems than its supporters had so naively believed it would resolve.

Ironically, however, all signs would indicate that wine had never been a prime target of prohibitionists, whose sights were set mainly on spirits, an aspect wine-grower Andrea Sbarboro had pointed out as early as 1907. In one of his pamphlets he wrote: ‘No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.’ But what did this matter? Wine was lumped in, its de facto ban causing untold damage to wine-growing throughout the nation – most devastatingly in California, then as now the most prestigious, most widely planted state in the union.

Prohibition timeline

Late 19th to early 20th century The ‘dry’ movement intensifies in the US; California wine is thriving

1907 Wine-grower Andrea Sbarboro argues that wine is not whiskey

16 January 1919 The 18th Amendment is ratified; sales of ‘intoxicating liquors’ are prohibited

16 January 1920 The Volstead Act takes effect; home winemaking and bootlegging surge

1923 Georges de Latour, owner of Beaulieu Vineyard, plants new vineyards for the booming sacramental wine business

1927 Grape sales for home winemaking reach fever pitch; bootlegging is now rampant

5 December 1933 The 21st Amendment takes effect; Prohibition is repealed

Post-Prohibition Recovery of California wine industry slowly begins; draconian rules are no help

1966 Legendary wine-grower Robert Mondavi founds eponymous winery

24 May 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting confirms the quality of California wine

Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa survived Prohibition by making sacramental wines

Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa survived Prohibition by making sacramental wine

Cruel blow

On the eve of Prohibition, the California wine industry had been thriving for several generations, the finest wines produced exclusively from Vitis vinifera grapes sourced from familiar regions such as Sonoma or Napa (the former at this time was far better known than the latter) and some other districts. By 1919, about 121,400ha were under cultivation, with more than 700 wineries in operation, all worth, San Francisco Judge DD Bowman asserts, ‘annual revenue[s] of $30,000,000’ for state coffers. ‘In 1919,’ remarks Prohibition authority Vivienne Sosnowski, ‘during an especially glorious autumn before Prohibition, the world was still full of promise for all the wine and ranching families of the valleys. But that promise, along with their faith in their country, would soon be brutally broken.’

On 16 January 1920, the National Prohibition Act came into effect. Better known as the Volstead Act after arch-prohibitionist Andrew Volstead, the effects of Prohibition were all but instantaneous. For example, what to do with some 643,520hl of ready-to-go California wine that, especially after a bountiful 1919 harvest, could no longer be sold? More importantly, how were wineries and the many thousands of families whose livelihoods depended on them going to survive? Could Prohibition be combated by regulatory loopholes? By selling wines illegally?

Congressman Andrew Volstead

Congressman Andrew Volstead

According to American wine historian Thomas Pinney, ‘the simplest and most common response to Prohibition on the part of American wineries was to simply go out of business rather than try to stay alive by undertaking new enterprises’, such as making dried table grapes or switching to unfermented grape juice production. Indeed, the challenges seemed insurmountable, from impromptu government agent visits that might, and occasionally did, end with being shut down, to preposterous regulations that permitted the production of wine but not its sale.

Loading grapes in vineyards of Guasti, California

Grapes for making sacramental and medicinal wines are loaded into open railroad cars in the vineyards of Guasti, California. Credit: Philip Brigandi, Library of Congress

Survival techniques

Yet some wineries in California did manage to survive, often ingeniously. Legal loopholes were crucial, the most effective being the permittance of home winemaking. ‘In the first vintage of the Prohibition era, 1920, more than 26,000 railroad cars of fresh grapes rolled out of California,’ Pinney reports, with many of them bound for the East Coast for crafting into wine in American kitchens, basements and garages. By 1927, the number of carloads exceeded 72,000, with vine plantings in California nearly double pre-Prohibition levels.

Unfortunately, Pinney notes that the grapes were mostly of deplorable quality: ‘The great explosion of grape planting that took place under Prohibition was not of grapes suited to making good wine but of grapes fit to be transported long distances and capable of attracting an uninstructed buyer – “shipping grapes” rather than true wine grapes.’ Among red ‘shipping grapes’, the most popular, remarks American wine historian Charles Sullivan, ‘were Alicante Bouschet, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignan and Mataro (Mourvèdre)’. White grape versions were usually far worse.

Other wine-growers turned to religion. At Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) in Rutherford, Napa, for example, winemaker Leon Bonnet crafted wines for the diocese of San Francisco, as the Volstead Act excluded wines meant for ‘sacramental’ purposes. In fact, the religious wine business boomed so well for BV owner Georges de Latour that he took over the lease at Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley across San Francisco Bay, so that he could sell their fine white wines alongside his own quality reds. We may, nonetheless, only guess as to the percentage of such wines being accompanied by a blessing, to say nothing of wines legally prescribed for medicinal reasons – another Prohibition loophole.

Alternatively, wine-growers merely disregarded the Volstead Act, their wines openly available up and down the coast. In San Francisco, Pinney asserts that restaurants ‘were well supplied by small winemakers in the Bay Area that continued to work despite Prohibition’. He also claims that: ‘Successfully open places were never arrested. The anecdotal literature is pretty big. My impression is that a café or restaurant in wine country, or in a place like North Beach, San Francisco, could serve wine without fear.’ Prohibition agents, moreover, knew exactly what was going on, but largely had the good sense to look the other way – a notion confirmed by wine-grower Everett Crosby, who, Pinney observes, later recalled that at a speakeasy in Pleasanton, Livermore Valley, ‘the mayor and his aides were regularly to be seen through the unshuttered windows… across the street from city hall as they stood at the bar drinking the local red wine’.

Bootlegging, of course, was how wines reached local restaurants and speakeasies. ‘There was a tremendous amount of bootlegging,’ Sullivan claims. ‘In Santa Clara, for example, the local sheriff was probably defeated in an election in an attempt to enforce the law.’
Furthermore, he says: ‘It was not even necessary to bribe. The grapes came from Sonoma and Napa, barged across the bay… At Bargetto [on Monterey Bay], they made limitless amounts of wine. They even had an underground transfer network between the buildings.’ Until the repeal in December 1933, these were the principal ways California wineries could survive and, in some instances, thrive.

A bootlegger's wreck, 1932

A bootlegger’s wreck, 1932

Beyond Prohibition

But by the time of repeal, the overall damage had been done. Compelled by a fed-up public and the dire need for new revenues as the Great Depression intensified, the 21st Amendment might have revoked Prohibition, but it hardly restored California wine-growing to its former status. By the end of 1933, only 380 wineries existed, having risen from 177 at the start of the year in anticipation of repeal. Worse, the entire state, notes Pinney, was nearly devoid of quality grapes. The total hectarage of Cabernet Sauvignon was less than 325ha, with Pinot Noir down to 243ha, 182ha for Riesling and 121ha for Chardonnay. The question now was how to rekindle a once flourishing wine industry from these paltry figures? Would knowledgeable wine-growers ever rediscover the stupendous potential of California’s finest sub-regions, vineyards and sub-sites, and perhaps one day even give their European counterparts something to think about?

Then there was the nature of repeal itself, which largely placed alcohol (including wine) in the direct control of the states. ‘It’s very simple,’ Sullivan crossly describes. ‘The 21st Amendment was a disaster: it solidified states’ rights over wine matters and, via the 10th Amendment, screwed up everything. Just ask a [California] wine-grower today. The restrictions, such as transport through states, are ridiculous. All I’ve heard from wineries is jabbering of the paperwork they have to file to get anything done.’

Today, though rules in California are more relaxed than in many places, the remnants of post-Prohibition regulations remain, their antiquated stipulations stymieing market access across state boundaries and rendering difficult even straightforward initiatives. For example, to welcome visitors at wineries and offer samples, owners must jump through hoops to secure the requisite permits.

Attitudinally, the effects of Prohibition also took decades to efface. Thanks to the huge reputational damage caused by home winemaking, the decades following repeal cast a pall over American confidence in local wine quality. Individuals, most famously the indefatigable Robert Mondavi, would gradually set matters to rights from the mid-1960s onwards, but the truth is that the execrable wines produced during Prohibition soured the national palate for a very long time – much like what happened to the reputation of German Riesling following regulation changes in the early 1970s.

Perhaps the most injurious effect of Prohibition was that it helped convince generations of Americans that wine as a lifestyle choice to be judiciously incorporated at mealtimes, for example, was somehow improper. And while great strides have been made to combat this misconception in recent years, the damage had been done and has yet to be fully undone.

Truly then, call it ridiculous. Dub it immature. Describe it, with worthy exaggeration, as the most unintelligent, most futile check on alcohol ever attempted. But never, ever, ever call Prohibition uninteresting.

Just trying to survive: bootlegging in California

In Vivienne Sosnowski’s book When the Rivers Ran Red: An Amazing Story of Courage and Triumph in America’s Wine Country, bootlegging was big business. It was also risky, with thousands of Prohibition employees ‘at the ready to do battle against… smallholding grape-growers and winery owners’ covertly barging their grapes and wines across San Francisco Bay’. Sure, most officials could be bribed, but not always. Some were even downright crooked, including bosses ‘charged with stealing alcohol and even giving away books of official prescription forms for “medicinal” alcohol [wine] as Christmas gifts’.

Yet people needed to survive, with most wine-growers only bootlegging as a last resort: ‘To choose to be a bootlegger was, for them, a cruel blow to their self-respect and a huge risk: of being arrested or paying an onerous fine, having their winemaking facilities knocked apart by the axes of federal agents, trucks confiscated, children and wives terrified.’ As for Prohibition employees, although some succumbed to dishonesty, for others it was a low-paying job like any other and included Sundays off.

Julian Hitner is a wine historian currently researching a book on the complete history of Bordeaux. With special thanks to Thomas Pinney, author of A History of Wine in America, and Charles Sullivan, author of A Companion to California Wine, for their invaluable assistance.

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Introducing Coteaux Champenois: Champagne’s still wines

Introducing Coteaux Champenois
The grand cru of Oger in the Cote des Blancs produces some of the regions’s top wines.

Champagne is the world’s most famous sparkling wine, its secondary fermentation in the bottle known as la methode Champenoise.

But before the monks Dom Ruinart and Dom Perignon realised the potential of capturing bubbles in bottles – thanks to advances in glass technology and with the relatively new medium of cork as a stopper – the wines were originally still.

Scroll down for Steven’s tasting notes from a recent Charles Heidsieck Coteaux Champenois tasting

As the laws of appellation came into being in the early 1930s, the still wines took the clumsy title Vin Originaire de la Champagne Viticole, to be changed in 1953 to Vin Nature de la Champagne. While this expressed exactly what it was – and there were some excellent examples of grand cru Chardonnays from the Cote de Blancs and grand cru Pinot Noirs from the Montagne de Reims (Bouzy especially) – the INAO changed the name in 1974 to Coteaux Champenois.

What had been a wine for the connoisseur from specific vineyards of quality could now be produced from all over the region and of course it was not, as the sparkling version was, better and much more profitable.

By the mid 1980s, these wines had vanished from the market, leaving only two brands of note: Moet & Chandon’s white Château de Saran from the château’s vineyards outside Epernay, and Bollinger’s red La Cote aux Enfants from a plot of Pinot Noir behind the cellars in Aÿ.

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Liber Pater to release world’s most expensive wine

Loic Pasquet Liber Pater Most Expensive Wine

Only 550 bottles of Liber Pater’s 2015 vintage were produced and just 240 set for release in September this year – priced to ‘show the real and old taste of Bordeaux’, according to the estate.

Speaking exclusively to Decanter.com, Liber Pater’s owner and winemaker, Loïc Pasquet, said that no price can truly pay justice to Bordeaux’s 150-year history but that his mission was ‘trying to maintain our ancestors’ practises and keep the original taste of Bordeaux intact’.

Pasquet acquired the estate, based in the Landiras commune of Graves, in 2005 and has set about reviving rare grape varieties, including Coulant and Castets, and using amphorae to make wine in a pre-phylloxera style. He believes that this highlights the ‘exclusivity’ of Bordeaux.

He has also planted at higher-than-usual vine densities of 20,000 vines per hectare compared to an average of 10,000 across the region today.

How Liber Pater 2015 was made

Liber Pater’s 2015 vintage is made entirely from ungrafted vines and comprises a mixture of rare grape varieties once commonly grown in Bordeaux including; Petite Vidure, Tarnay, Castets and St-Macaire, alongside the better known Petit Verdot and Malbec.

The cuvée was vinified in grey, clay amphorae of 250 and 400 litres, with a two-month maceration period followed by three years ageing.

Pasquet says the 2015 has sensations ‘rarely found in wines from Bordeaux due to the change in the taste post-phylloxera’.

He said it was ‘a pure wine with honesty, finesse and elegance, like the old taste of Bordeaux pre-phylloxera. It has a delicate nose with floral aromas and hints of crunchy black forest fruits, with silky tannins and long fine finish.’

‘Protecting’ Bordeaux heritage

When questioned on the appetite in the market for a Bordeaux wine at such prices, Pasquet said, ‘Wine aficionados and collectors want to appreciate the original fine wine of Bordeaux. It’s a unique experience. I’m doing what needs to be done to protect our heritage.’

He added: ‘I’m doing my very best to produce amazing wines and working very hard in the vineyard on a daily basis, but I don’t have any doubt that everyone is doing their best.

‘I’m a strong believer that Liber Pater wines will always be exclusive. The use of ungrafted vines is exclusive, 20,000 vine per hectare is exclusive, indigenous grape varieties is exclusive and amphorae are exclusive.’ Other wineries around the world use amphorae, notably in Georgia, but they are rare in Bordeaux.

The 2015 will be labelled as a Vin de France, unlike previous vintages that were labelled as AOC Graves, owing to the use of grape varieties not authorised by Bordeaux’s official guidelines.

World’s most expensive wine

The wine, which is being sold in six-bottle cases, has been on offer to the estate’s mailing list for the last six months on a strict allocation basis, priced at €30,000 a bottle (/£26,600/US$33,420).

That makes it eight times more expensive than the estate’s 2011 vintage, which is around €3,000 per bottle.

The 2015 vintage is the estate’s sixth release since Pasquet took charge, alongside the 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

There will be no 2016 or 2017 due to frost and replanting, but a 2018 vintage will be offered in 2021.

Speaking about the 2018 vintage, Pasquet said it’s ‘going to be a fantastic year and we are very excited for what we have been tasting so far, so watch the space.’

Decanter’s Jane Anson will visit Liber Pater in the coming weeks to taste its wines. Look out for her full report on Decanter.com.


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Wasps may save California vineyards from ‘invasion’ by Chinese fly

lanternfly wine
An adult spotted lanternfly…

Researchers are concerned about the potential spread of the spotted lanternfly, which first showed up in the US in Pennsylvania five years ago but was found in Virginia vineyards in early 2018.

The brightly-coloured, sap-sucking flies could damage California vineyards, according to UC Riverside, which is trying to get ahead by testing whether a type of ‘sesame seed-sized wasp’ can help.

‘We hope to be ready to release these wasps immediately when the spotted lanternfly shows up, giving us a really strong head start on the invasion,’ said Mark Hoddle, director of the Center for Invasive Species Research at UC Riverside.

The spotted lanternfly has the potential to harm grapevines, as well as some fruit trees.

‘It secretes copious amounts of “honeydew,” a waste product that encourages black, sooty mould and damages a plant’s ability to grow,’ said Hoddle.

UC Riverside said has been granted $544,000 from California’s Department of Food and Agriculture to test whether the tiny wasps, also from China, could be a solution. However, testing will take three years.

The wasps are known to lay their eggs inside those of the lanternflies. Wasp larvae then eat their way out.

UC Riverside said it was also important to test what impact the introduction of the wasps might have on local ecosystems.

Some insecticides have proved effective against the spotted lanternfly, according to the Virginia Vineyards Association.

The flies feed on the so-called ‘tree of heaven’, itself an invasive plant species. One method of trapping the flies is to use one of the trees as bait, before targeting them with insecticide.

See also: Concerns rise as grape-rotting fruit fly found in Bordeaux vineyards

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Producer profile: Klein Constantia

Klein Constantia wine
Klein Constantia vineyard.

There was an almost audible intake of breath in January 2011 when the British financier Charles Harman and the Czech-American investor and entrepreneur Zdenek Bakala bought Klein Constantia. The concern in the Cape was understandable. Both tycoons lived overseas, were unknown quantities and neither had any experience of running a wine estate. In short, nobody quite knew what was going to happen next.

Scroll down to see John Stimpfig’s top six Klein Constantia wines to try


See John Stimpfig’s top six Klein Constantia wines to try

See also Klein Constantia wines tasted by Decanter experts here

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