Bordeaux 2015 from bottle, part 2

Pomerol isn’t just about the stars

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

11 January 2018

Since I already had covered much of the Médoc last month, here, where Margaux shined brightest, now we turn mainly to the Right Bank. As expected from barrel tastings, the star of the Right Bank for 2015 is confirmed: Pomerol.

In tastings organized at individual estates, at the Libourne offices of pioneering Pomerol producer Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix, and at Château de Pressac in Saint Emilion, where I tasted many wines whose estates are members of the Grand Cercle, I am convinced that savvy consumers can find economically priced 2015s from Pomerol, relatively speaking, as well as divas whose prices are scraping ever higher skies.

Tasting at Vieux Château Certan with Yohan Castaing, Jane Anson and Guillaume Thienpont.

Of course the choice is somewhat limited with 150 estates – packed into just under 800 hectares in an area roughly three kilometers wide by four long – but that’s my work for you, dear reader: picking out excellent price/quality ratios, even from this cream-of-the-Bordeaux-crop appellation 😊. Of course my notes include the stars, as well.

Long considered a sub appellation of Saint Emilion, Pomerol was granted independent status only in the early 20th century. The gently rolling plateau of Pomerol – 19 miles northeast of Bordeaux and two miles from the city of Libourne – slopes towards the Isle river valley and its confluence with the Dordogne. Although soils vary (not all Pomerol is created equal to be sure), you can find less expensive Pomerol that is being made better than ever before, according to my experience in tasting some of the less heralded estates over the last 10 years or so.

Indeed, trade representatives notice as well: “The less expensive brands work especially well for restaurants, explains Stephan Maure of the Vino Strada bistro in Strasbourg, France. “They bear the name of Pomerol and convey the refinement of the appellation, but do not cost an arm and a leg,” he stressed.

Rest assured that Bordeaux 2015 from bottle features many excellent Right Bank wines outside of Pomerol, from Saint Emilion to be sure, but also excellent wines from satellite appellations, notably Fronsac, which rather kicked ass in 2015. I will get to these in Part 3, focusing on Saint Emilion and many satellite appellations.

Part 4 will be dedicated to the Graves region, red and white, and Part 5 will focus on Sauternes and Barsac.

Later this month, in New York City and in Washington D.C., I will taste more Saint Emilion and Pomerol wines at the UGCB tour tastings, and will update this page, with a few more Pomerols, so be ready for an update at the end of January, along with Parts 3, 4 and 5.

For now, without further ado, let’s get to the tasting notes, starting with my favorite 2015 Right Bank appellation. As usual, wines I liked in particular are in bold. Even more are red and bold. And if underlined as well? Wine nirvana! Read More

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20 years of Château La Conseillante

A great vertical, a great Pomerol

10 January 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Driving west past Château Cheval Blanc at the edge of Saint Emilion, you come across a series of superb Pomerol estates with prime vineyard real estate: Vieux Château Certan, Evangile, Petrus and La Conseillante, among others. They count among the very best Merlot-driven wines of Bordeaux from the famous Pomerol appellation, if not for the entire wine world.

I taste Pomerol on location with fellow wine hacks, on at least a yearly basis, so I was nothing short of thrilled to have been invited late last year to taste 20 vintages of La Conseillante.

Already considered a top wine

The Nicolas family bought the estate in 1871 and it remains with the same family to this day. Somewhat unusual for Bordeaux is the fact that its just over 12 hectares of vineyards (over 30 acres) have remained unchanged since the early 18th century (with the exception of a nearly one-third hectare parcel, purchased in 2014).

The fifth generation manages the estate today, with Bertrand Nicolas and Jean-Valmy Nicolas as joint managing directors. Marielle Cazaux, who has been estate manager since July 2015, welcomed us for the tasting, which was followed by lunch with Bertrand Nicolas.

Lunch at La Conseillante. From left to right, Jane Anson, myself, Betrand Nicolas, Marielle Cazaux and Yohan Castaing.

I first discovered La Conseillante back in the early 2000s, about the time when Jean-Michel Laporte arrived as general manager. He steered the estate into positive directions, overseeing for example the creation of a second wine in 2007 and a new cellar space in 2012, before moving on to other work in 2014.  Read More

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Champagne in the sky

Two value airlines for transatlantic business class

By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine-Chronicles.Com 

27 December 2017

Writing articles about wines means traveling to vineyards. And my work in media relations for the Council of Europe also includes several flights a year. Each holiday season, I return to my home in Virginia to see friends and family. So here a few reflections between Christmas and New Year’s on long haul flights…

Over the past few years, I have been booking long haul flights on business class that I find for decent rates, and as one can guess, quality varies. While some people understandably prefer to spend more money on their destination locations, I prefer to have maximum comfort on the way over and back, when I can afford it and when it comes to flights that last over five hours.

In that regard, Lufthansa had always been my go-to airline, as service and quality are excellent. On my YouTube channel, I have posted several videos from business class on Lufthansa flights, both A380s and 747-800s, including an excellent journey to Hong Kong in May 2016 (only one way in business).

But that was my last long haul with Lufthansa, as prices have gone too high for business class, at least for my wallet. What cost but three years ago some €2,000 round trip from Frankfurt to Washington D.C. for example now is 50% more.

So two airlines I have come to enjoy over the past two years are Condor and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS).


For the sake of following alphabetical order, let’s start with Condor: A rather maligned airline, if you look at online reviews. Once part of Lufthansa, it was more recently purchased by the Thomas Cook Group as a recreational charter airline based in Germany. When I told a steward on Lufthansa that I planned to fly to San Diego with Condor, he said: “They have small planes,” with a certain disdain.

Indeed, I was invited to take part in the wine tasting “Critics Challenge” in San Diego in May 2017 and found out that Condor operates a non stop round trip from Frankfurt to San Diego on a 767-300 twin engine jet. Sure it is smaller than the Lufthansa A380 to Los Angeles, but it was non-stop. Read More

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Krug 96 from magnum

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

24 December 2017

Did I get your attention?

Good, because that was not the only bottle that we enjoyed. Tis the season to drink well. And, well, I enjoyed myself too much, as I had left my written notes behind from a fabulous, over four hour lunch on 22 December at Black Salt, one of the best seafood restaurants in Washington D.C. … This was a great lunch with true wine loving friends. We were nine very happy people, enjoying some magnums from fine Burgundy, Champagne and from other regions, as well as regular format bottles.

My notes, only from memory, are however as usual: if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold even more. And when underlined, too, wine nirvana! The great DCWino – Mr. Kevin Shin – took excellent notes himself, for more assessments.

Pair of glorious magnum bottles of Champagne
Krug 96 proved to be the wine of the lunch. But the Ledru was wonderful, too!

  • 1996 Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée – France, Champagne
    Well, I suppose this is rather perfect. Alas I left my written notes at the restaurant so here from memory. Gorgeously precise fruit driven flavors at first then a burgeoning notion of white truffle that begs fine cuisine, which we got – in spades – at Black Salt. The texture was at once velvety smooth and vivacious, the energy of the 1996 vintage shining through and although the color and even the tertiary aspects suggest a quicker than expected evolution – this was a magnum bottle! – the wine was literally singing over lunch, and we kept going back to it. Thanks be to magnums and thank be to Krug. (100 pts.)

With Amy Ray, and going back several times to this glorious magnum of vintage Champagne

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Venice: not so hidden secret

Restaurant review

By Panos Kakaviatos in Venice 

11 December 2017

Browsing through wine oriented Facebook posts you are bound to see boastful images of ultra expensive wines.

“Just check out the great, very expensive wines I have been drinking,” etc… Well, it is great to drink loads of great, expensive wine.

But while in Venice for the third time this year – related to my work for the Council of Europe – I took just as much pleasure in wining and dining in a somewhat hidden, brasserie style restaurant near the Realto Bridge, enjoying rather humble Lugana wine with delectable fresh fish and seafood.

Wine (and food) pretension it ain’t, but Trattoria Alla Madonna is sheer pleasure, which I had discovered already a couple of years ago, thanks to friends who – of course – live near Venice. 

Darting throughout the brightly lit restaurant to take orders and bring food to tables, the white clad waiters were constantly busy as the place was packed: a sure sign of an excellent restaurant. Indeed, Trattoria Alla Madonna does not take reservations, regularly filled as it is with both tourists and Venetians. I love the vibrant brasserie style hum: efficient service, sometimes a bit hurried, but always with a smile and courteous. Read More

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