Should I decant?

Give the wine a little swirl in a glass
Give the wine a little swirl in a glass

The Telegraph recently featured a report on whether a wine ought to be decanted before being drunk. You can read the full article here, but its writer, Victoria Moore, made it clear that she isn’t particularly in favour of decanting. Nonetheless she highlights some scenarios in which a wine can benefit from this process. She’s absolutely right that decanting is a personal preference and many of us that work in the industry will have had good and bad experiences of it. Not every fine wine will necessarily benefit — and it’s quite often the wines that we might not expect that will benefit the most. If you’re unsure whether you ought to decant or not, the following pointers might help you decide:

Pour a little first

Even if your wine is relatively inexpensive, if it’s suffering from a bit of bottle stink, decanting it might be just the ticket to shift any sulphurous odours it retains. Give it a little swirl in a glass before making a decision, and if you detect bottle stink, this is a candidate for decanting. Similarly if its flavours are muted, it will probably benefit from the aeration that decanting provides. Continue reading

What happens when a winery skips a vintage?

It was recently reported that the Tuscan Biondi Santi estate had decided to write off the 2014 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino, their flagship wine. Biondi Santi’s wines are among the region’s most prestigious and it is likely that others will follow suit after difficult conditions throughout the season.

Brunello di Montalcino vines (source: Wikipedia)
Brunello di Montalcino vines (source: Wikipedia)

The toughest vintage

A wet summer in Italy hit Tuscany particularly hard. Other regions such as Prosecco were also badly affected by rainfall. The cool summer and excessive rainfall led to outbreaks of vine diseases throughout many regions from north to south. Continue reading

Asia’s love affair with Bordeaux

After a few shaky vintages in Bordeaux, you could be forgiven for feeling nervous that interest in the fine wine market was beginning to subside in Asia. Admittedly the market became so vast, so quickly, that there was little chance of growth continuing at such a fast pace. However, recent reports show that Asia’s love affair with Bordeaux is far from over, and in fact,this may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Mouton-Rothschild and the year of the ram

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

The evidence speaks for itself – at the top end of the market, a recent ex-chateau auction of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Hong Kong smashed all records, fetching a total of US$4.1 million. An extraordinary collection of 66 bottles was featured, offering vintages between 1945-2012.

This auction took place just before the Chinese New Year, giving it particular significance for the Chinese bidders, since it is the year of the ram – of course ‘Mouton’ is the French word for sheep! Continue reading

Whites for the cellar

Riesling Grapes
Riesling Grapes (source: Wikipedia)

When we talk about wine investment we seldom mention white wines, and least of all dry whites – it is true that dessert wines can age majestically but their dry counterparts are not known to age particularly well. This is largely due to the fact that red wines are high in tannins, which help them to age, and white wines have significantly less tannin. However there are a few exceptions among dry whites that deserve a bit of time in the cellar in order to fully reach their potential.

The best white Burgundy

The best Chardonnay in the world comes from Burgundy and while the grape is not known for wines destined for the cellar, the sheer complexity of the top white Burgundies can take a few years to emerge. The best wines from top producers will benefit from cellaring in order to become rich, deep, and complex. Continue reading

In search of DRC

DRC-LaTache-Labels (Wikipedia)In spite of the global popularity of Bordeaux, a wine from Burgundy has eclipsed the first growths for the second time in a row to top Sotheby’s rankings in 2014. Although wines from Bordeaux dominated the overall sales as usual, it was a lot of 114 wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, known as DRC, that hit the headlines with a record-breaking HK$12.5 million when it was sold in Hong Kong last year, which is equivalent to US$1.6 million.

Legendary status

For many of even the most avid wine collectors DRC will remain an elusive wine – Burgundy’s entire production is tiny compared to the phenomenal annual output of Bordeaux, and so it is no surprise that the wines of this legendary estate have achieved something of a legendary status. So, what’s so special about them? Continue reading

Can we predict the next cult wine from Napa?

Napa Valley photo by  Malcolm Carlaw
Napa Valley photo by Malcolm Carlaw

Wine-Searcher recently reported on the exclusive Premier Napa Valley auction which is coming up in February – although not the biggest of its kind, the same event last year raised nearly $6 million (read the full article here ). It’s a great opportunity for fans of ‘cult’ Napa Cabernet Sauvignon based wines to attempt to purchase emerging superstar wines. Brands like Scarecrow and Shrader have emerged in recent years, firmly securing a place for their wines in the exclusive $1000+ per bottle club, often much more.

Big names and perfect scores

The biggest names in Napa include Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, and their success is largely due to perfect scores from Robert Parker. Unfortunately this remains the only way to get one’s wines into the exclusive club. Parker’s review of barrel samples of the wines and consequent evaluation as ‘candidates for a perfect score’ is what defines them as cult wines. Continue reading

A Word on That Prosecco Row

Since the turn of the new year, the wine industry has turned its attention to the well-priced and popular fizz Prosecco, and in particular a row that is ‘bubbling’ between the producers of the wine in its native Italy and those that who are selling it here in the UK. Producers are unhappy that the wine is being sold on tap in the UK’s on-trade.

A problem of definition

 Prosecco must come from a bottle (source: Wikipedia)
Prosecco must come from a bottle (source: Wikipedia)

The problem relates to the definition of the wine – the wine that is sold in barrel and served via a tap is the same as bottled Prosecco, but according to legislation there must be a clear distinction between the two in terms of how they must be labelled and presented to the consumer. There are strict EU laws dictating how sparkling wines must be sold, and producers are angered that these are being ignored by those serving the wine on tap. By definition, the wine they are selling cannot be called Prosecco, because Prosecco must come from a bottle. Continue reading