“Sweet” is too simple: Appreciating late harvest wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

9 July 2015

“Sweet” wine?

Some people shrug. Many who dislike “sweet” wines base their judgment on supermarket shelf stuff, the kind of wine that is merely sticky (and/or sweet), without vivaciousness from balancing acidity and/or intriguingly complex flavors and aromas from botrytis-derived spice.

Yet some of the world’s greatest wines are “sweet”. Most readers have heard of Yquem. And I am certain you have come across Klein Constancia Estate or Domaine Disznoko or Weingut Dr. Loosen. In fact great “sweet” wines can be found worldwide.

Why the quotation marks? Because that adjective diminishes the complexities of truly fine late harvest wine. At least for serious producers.

Yes, you can start with fabulous fungus

Also known as “noble rot” (pourriture noble in French, Edelfäule in German), botrytis tends to develop later in the harvest period, shriveling grapes, removing water and leaving behind concentrated fruit sugars, minerals and natural acids, yielding a more viscous juice. The fungus typically occurs when warm, dry and sunny conditions follow early morning humidity, generated from nearby lakes and rivers. Take for example the famous Ciron – a tributary of Bordeaux’s Garonne river – which has cooler waters than the Garonne.


Thanks to botrytis

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Haute Couture at Haut Bailly

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

30 June 2015

This is one of a series of articles on some superb lunches and dinners I was lucky enough to attend during the intense Vinexpo week in Bordeaux in June 2015. Keep checking my website for more Vinexpo highlights throughout July 2015! 

Dinner with Pingus, Le Pin, Bonneau du Martray, Quinta do Noval Nacional and Haut Bailly? And with the owners all present? Sure! Guests included winemakers, sommeliers, esteemed wine writers and others associated with the wine industry – from China and Europe to the U.S. and India. I had the pleasure of having Will Harlan of Harlan Estate seated across from me.


That’s Will Harlan of Harlan Estate and Bloomberg writer and wine author Elin McCoy being served Haut Bailly 2009

All in a thoroughly elegant setting.

Haut Bailly is a veritable cru classé de Graves of tremendous breed and refinement and the 17 June dinner ambiance reflected that style. Every two years – at Vinexpo – owner Robert G. Wilmers organizes a lovely dinner, preceded by a comprehensive vertical of at least the last 10 vintages. This year lucky participants tasted vintages from 2004 until 2014 from barrel and then – over dinner – enjoyed a superlative 2009 vintage and a very good 2000 vintage – with the aforementioned wines from around the world.


With master chef Alain Dutournier of Carré des Feuillants, who prepared a superb dinner for the superb wines!

The entire event, from A to Z, reflected the elegance and refinement of the wine. Following the vertical and servings of Pol Roger 2004 vintage Champagne, some 100 participants were enchanted by the superb culinary art of Alain Dutournier, chef of the famous Carré des Feuillants restaurant, who prepared a meal that was as savory as it was aesthetically appealing. Read More

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No Greek myth: Assyrtiko can be really great

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

28 June 2015

Wines in bold, I liked in particular. When red and bold, even more. When underlined, too, that means top of the pops!


Yen-Ting and Spyros at home in Frankfurt

Spyros Andreopoulos is an #winelover who is half German and half Greek. He grew up in Greece before studying and then working in investment banking in London. Since 2013, he has been working in Frankfurt, Germany as an economist for the European Central Bank. Obviously, the current situation in Greece was a subject of conversation as we met with some of his friends over dinner with plenty of Greek wines, mainly Assyrtiko from Santorini.

Spyros and his Taiwanese wife Yen-Ting Hu organize wine dinners with friends on a monthly basis, and it was a great pleasure to join them. Our dinner party included a couple from Beijing who live and work between Beijing and London and a Greek doctor based in Frankfurt.

Assyrtiko is a famous white wine grape indigenous to the gorgeous and volcanic island of Santorini, which is known for its amazing sunsets, among other things. Spyros has traveled to the island and knows some of the top winemakers there. Read More

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Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg Les Chaignots Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 2009

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

2 June 2015

I have been to Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg on several occasions and the wines from this estate are terrific.

Sisters Marie Andrée and Marie-Christine run the estate, which was once run by their father the late Dr. Georges Mugneret. The style is suave yet with structure for aging. Friend and Burgundy lover Micheal Lux brought over not too long ago a magnificent Clos Vougeot 2002. I have purchased more recent vintages, mainly Vosne Romanée and Echezeaux but decided – somewhat foolishly – to crack open this my only bottle of their Les Chaignots Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 2009… As Jasper Morris describes it in his excellent book Inside Burgundy, this wine “shows the elegance and harmony of Vosne Romanée on top of a solid base of Nuits-Saint-Georges.” Read More

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Bordeaux 2014 in barrel: high acidity and high hopes

The best wines? Positively classic, full of vibrancy. And a more traditional balance of moderate alcohol levels, with ripeness – and plenty of zing. 2014? Generally very good. The most exciting wines? From the northern Médoc, even though gems exist throughout Bordeaux. For reds, after the “challenging” trio of 2011-2012-2013, 2014 is welcome news. For whites – both sticky and sweet – the vintage is very good. 

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles

26 May 2015

Hard earned oysters after a morning tasting at negociant Ulysse Cazabonne

Many prices have come out for Bordeaux 2014 wines as futures, and I am feeling even more optimistic than about a month ago. I mean, Grand Puy Lacoste for 45 euros? What about Giscours for 30? #Winelovers who want to drink some lovely wines from a positively – and I stress the word positively – classical vintage will find happiness, especially younger buyers who may have more recently discovered Bordeaux. For many of these wines, I say “go for it.” 

Even more famous brands like Mouton Rothschild, which was the first of the First Growths to be released, came out at 240 euros ex-Bordeaux, around 11% higher than its 2013 en primeur wine but closer to the 2012 release price – and 2012 is an inferior vintage.

As Decanter reported on 28 April: Château Mouton Rothschild, which I found to be one of the top wines of the vintage, has helped to “breathe life into a slow burning Bordeaux 2014 en primeur campaign by releasing at a price that several merchants believe offers a good deal to consumers.”

But let’s look at other higher-end releases. Château Lynch Bages – my favorite in a blind tasting of Pauillacs from barrel – is now available in the United States for under $80: just take a look at wine-searcher.com. An excellent price for fans of this fine estate as available bottles from previous vintages cost more.

All the more reason to buy futures of this wine.

Some estates have outdone themselves. Château Sociando Mallet has come out at the same price as 2013. A great gesture.

To the tasting notes 

MargauxSaint JulienPauillacSaint Estephe – Cru Bourgeois and Haut Médoc

Saint EmilionPomerol – Lalande de Pomerol

Graves (reds and whites)

Sauternes and Barsac Read More