Bordeaux 2015: Could rains complicate potentially excellent vintage?

14 September 2015

By Panos Kakaviatos for

The weather chart looks worrying. Rain, rain … and more rain expected this week.

It already rained Friday to Sunday, 11-13 September.

This brings back memories of reporting on Bordeaux’s 2006 harvest on location in Pauillac for I was talking with Jean-Rene Matignon, director of the famous second growth Château Pichon Baron. He told me all had been really fine until rains started to fall and his quote nine years ago, almost to this day: “We need to start picking the Merlot this Wednesday,” Matignon said. “It is just too bad. Before the rains, we had a natural average degree of 14 for the Merlot – brilliant, just like in 2005,” he added. Other winemakers expressed similar concerns, in this story


Ominous clouds over the vineyard, in September 2015

Could 2015 be 2006 déjà vu? Well, not so fast. The rains that fell nine years ago just about at harvest time were very hard and intense in a shorter period. So far this year there have been lighter bursts, but nothing as heavy as in 2006. Then again, the chart is not very encouraging. And I also met Jean-Rene in Pauillac during the second week of September this year. His thoughts on 2015? “I’d rather not say anything before we bring the grapes into the vat room.” Read More

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Strasbourg’s first Italian wine bar: Better late than never

4 September 2015

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Strasbourg is a significant European city. Its multifaceted architecture reflects Europe’s rich, long history. Styles range from Middle Age bridges to European institutional buildings: some appealingly post-modern, others 1970s-era eyesores.


Summer light show on Strasbourg’s famous cathedral

This capital city of the Alsace region in northeastern France hosts the European Parliament. It is located near the German border, something I appreciate because goods and services are less expensive in Germany, from housing to tobacco. Many French – who still love cancer-causing smoke – find their cigarette nirvana in the over-the-border town of Kehl, which features loads of tobacco shops. Read More

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Wine glasses matter, but should not cause tunnel vision

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

2 September 2015

So, you are meeting with fellow wine friends, tasting through different wines. If you and your fellow oenophiles drink from the same type of glass, then you all have the same vantage point, correct?

So why the hell would you really need to pay $100 for an ultra fancy wine glass?

Or even $25?

Besides, it may be a good time to reject the most widely sold producer, Riedel.

That company is threatening legal action against a humorous blogger known as the Hosemaster of Wine for a post where the blogger pokes fun at the company’s owner Georg Riedel.

Talk about poor public relations. Read More

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Grand cru in all but name? Clos Saint Jacques

30 August 2015

By Panos Kakaviatos for

I’ve never had a disappointing Clos Saint Jacques. Then again, I have not tried that many. Why? The 6.7 hectares of vineyards in this highly touted Burgundian appellation are expensive – and with historical significance. Named for a stopping point on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela (in French, Saint Jacques de Compostelle), the vineyard was once a prestigious monopole. The famous 1855 rating system for Burgundy terroirs, by Dr. Jules Lavalle, graded Clos Saint Jacques as first of the so-called premières cuvées.

By the time Burgundian terroirs were graded as we know them today as village, premier cru and grand cru, some vineyards with grand cru quality were not included as such, on occasion because then owners wished to avoid paying higher taxes associated with that higher grade. I am not sure why Clos Saint Jacques was not named grand cru. Could it be, as Jasper Morris MW posits in his lovely book, Inside Burgundy, that a former owner, the Count of Moucheron, did not wish to fill out the paperwork needed to formally obtain that status? The website of Armand Rousseau states that the count was a royalist and did not wish to be part of any such Republican ratings. Whatever the case may be, many critics over time and today say that the terroir/appellation of Clos Saint Jacques is grand cru in all but name. Read More


Yes, Napa reds can age very well (and more tales with Washington D.C. winos)

By Panos Kakaviatos for

8 August 2015

Back in Washington D.C. I flew in to see my mother who is going to have to undergo surgery. At 85 years of age, a delicate matter. It was great to be able to meet great friends from the Washington D.C. tasting group I have known now for over 10 years. The theme was Napa Valley reds – including some older ones – and white Burgundy, with a few other regions including, of course, Champagne to start. We were Ben Giliberti, former Washington Post wine writer and currently working for Calvert Woodley Importers and fellow D.C. -based winos and wine aficionados Ken Barr, Howard Cooper, Paul Marquardt, Ken Brown, Chris Bublitz, Randy McFarlane and myself.


Randy getting ready for some bubbles!

This tasting proved yet again how quality wine producers from the Napa Valley make wine that is built to age – as well as seductive early drinking wine. The white Burgundies we enjoyed were all delicious. Three clearly flawed bottles including a 2004 J-M Pillot Chassagne “Clos St Marc” that Paul brought, tainted by TCA. Ben brought a 1987 Burgundy that was also corked. Randy’s 1995 Spottswoode could not shake an excess of what seemed to be volatile acidity. But most of the bottles brought were great. Many thanks to dear wine friends for bringing in some of their drinkable treasures, which we drank with much pleasure! Always good to start with bubbles. Two NVs and one 2008, that shows the promise of that vintage! Read More

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